Are you diligent enough about preventing computer viruses?
I talk a lot about the importance of keeping your computer safe from viruses, malware and other things that can expose you and your information to security risks.
But today I'm talking about good old-fashioned, low-tech germs. They can shut down your productivity just as quickly as a so-called indestructible computer virus.
It's that time of year, no matter where you live, when cold- and flu-season is spreading like wildfire. We just experienced a mini-epidemic at our office, complete with both the upper respiratory stuff and the stomach version sweeping through whole departments for days at a time.
There are many ways to disinfect your work space and minimize your exposure when these nasty viruses are spreading. But there's nothing we touch more than our desktops, laptops, tablets and cell phones. I kept hearing the office germophobes say, "Too bad there's no way to clean a computer."
Nonsense. Some digital gadgets are easier to disinfect than others, but there's plenty you can do to lessen your exposure at work. Here are seven steps to a flu-free work station.
1) Attack that germy keyboard and mouse. They get touched the most at work and in your home office. If your keyboard and mouse are wired, unplug them from the computer. If they're wireless, shut them off and remove the batteries. Then use bleach-free wipes to clean and disinfect the keyboard and mouse. Go over the accessories again with a dry and soft lint-free cloth.
You want to avoid getting moisture into openings. Never use spray cleaners or spray disinfectants. If a wipe is very damp, squeeze it to remove the excess liquid. Also avoid using paper or cloth towels, because the lint can be harmful.
2) Have a laptop? Clean off the internal keyboard and trackpad the same way. Again, be sure to shut down the computer and unplug the power supply first.
3) To clean a desktop computer, shut it down and unplug the power cord. Disconnect peripherals. Use a disinfectant wipe to go over plastic and metal surfaces. For the display, use a soft, slightly damp lint-free cloth.
4) Phones with keyboards can be swabbed with a slightly damp disinfecting wipe. Most smartphone makers recommend using only a soft cloth to clean touchscreens. But several studies have reported that the average cell phone is more germ infested than a public toilet. And you put that to your face how many times a day?
Your best line of defense may be to consider buying a screen protector for your smartphone. They're available for the more popular touchscreen phones, so that you can clean and replace them as needed. Meanwhile, don't forget to disinfect the handpiece and mouthpiece on your wired desk phone.
5) Place a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and a box of tissues next to your computer and use them frequently. This will go far to help control the introduction or transfer of germs.
Alcohol, however, can damage computer screens and touchscreen phones. Don't apply it directly to any of your electronics and never use an alcohol-based cleaner or a disinfectant wipe containing alcohol on any of your screens.
6) Of course, frequent hand-washing is the simplest - and most effective - way to stop the spread of illness both at work and in the home. Washing before meals - ever when you go out to lunch during the workday - and after going to the bathroom, shaking hands, handling a pen or working at another desk or work station, can go a long way in halting the spread of germs.
7) Finally, your mom was right. Keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth, and don't touch handrails or door knobs without washing afterward. The biggest germ sources are still low tech.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Get the podcast or find the station nearest you at www.komando.com/listen. Subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters at www.komando.com/newsletters. Copyright 1995-2012, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.