10 Rules for Surviving Your Open Plan Office

Mind the Germs
Use antibacterial wipes in your desk area when your coworker starts sneezing. And encourage him to go home. shironosov/iStock/Thinkstock

All of that closeness and collaboration so touted by backers of open offices has had one unintended consequence: a lot more sick days. Think about it a minute: Kids in day care and elementary school are constantly coming down with one illness after another because they're in such close contact with each other. The same happens in open plan offices. If you're in an office, or even tucked into a three-walled cubicle, and your neighbor sneezes, you're pretty well protected. But if you and your co-worker are sitting elbow to elbow, you're outta luck.

The best means of staying healthy when you're so exposed may be the simplest: Wash your hands frequently. More than 20 percent of respiratory illnesses can be thwarted simply by washing your hands, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand-washing also reduces your chances of getting diarrhea (ick!) by 31 percent [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].

Besides scrubbing your hands regularly, wipe down your desk, keyboard and phone with antibacterial wipes, get plenty of sleep every night and encourage your co-workers or subordinates to stay home if they're ill. And you should do the same if you're coming down with something. You're most contagious the first two or three days of a cold so do everyone in your office a favor and stay home [source: Medline].

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