When you consider how many people share office equipment such as chairs, desks and printers, let alone take calls on each other’s phones, it’s probably no surprise the workplace is a breeding ground for germs.

With winter still in full force, the number of colds we all catch at this time of year is often significantly higher than in warmer months. There seems to be no definitive reason for this, but one theory is that we are more vulnerable to colds when the lining of our noses is colder, making it easier for infection to take hold. It’s probable we’re bringing these infections into the workplace and, through indirect contact, passing them on to our colleagues.

As well as considering using a scarf to keep your face warm when you’re outside, there are 6 habits you can adopt that will protect you and your colleagues.

Wash your hands often:

Studies have shown that soap and water are most effective at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus and Clostridium difficile. Experts recommend washing with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds and if possible, turning off the tap with a paper towel to avoid recontamination.

Give your phone a wipe:

Use antimicrobial and antibacterial wipes to clean your telephone and mobile handset every day, paying particular attention to the buttons, mouthpiece and earpiece

Clean your keyboard:

As well as wiping the keys with an antimicrobial wipe, you should turn the keyboard upside down over a bin and shake out residual dust, dirt and food remnants. Air dusters are good for blasting out any particles stuck under or between the keys.

Keep your fingers out:

Colds are transmitted by contaminated hands that pass the virus to the nose and eye. Apparently we rub our eyes around 30 times a day, so try to use your knuckles to do this rather than your fingers, as apparently there are fewer germs on our knuckles than on our fingertips.

Clean shared surfaces:

Places like desk tops, printers and fax machines are touched by lots of people, making them host to thousands of bacteria. These need to be cleaned at least once a week by antimicrobial and antibacterial wipes, paying particular attention to buttons, keys or touch screens.

Use a tissue:

Try to sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw the tissue away immediately. Sneezing or coughing into your hands increases the chances of passing the cold on, as does sneezing into the air where droplets can quickly spread around the room to be breathed in by others, or land on surfaces that others are likely to touch.