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News Release

Survey Shows Flu Virus Set to Make Workers, Businesses Ill this Season

Staples offers products to help keep the workplace clean and healthy

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 12, 2012-- Nearly 80 percent of office workers polled come to work even when they know they are sick, according to the third annual Flu Season Survey from Staples, an increase of 20 percent over last year. For those that stay home, more than two-thirds return to work when they are still contagious, putting coworkers’ health and business productivity at risk.

In a typical year, the flu virus is responsible for approximately 70 million missed workdays and an estimated $10 billion in lost office productivity. Survey results also show that employees could do more to keep the workplace healthy: half of office workers don’t clean their workspaces regularly and are unaware of the dirtiest surfaces in the office.

Staples offers solutions to help maintain a healthy workplace by keeping things clean – whether a home office, small-to-mid-sized business or large enterprise. From simple items, such as hand sanitizer, to large-scale industrial cleaning products and techniques, Staples has the solutions to keep workers healthy and productive.

“At Staples, we know that companies are already doing more with fewer resources, and flu season has the potential to impact productivity,” said Lisa Hamblet, vice president for facility solutions at Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples. “Prevention is key, and using the right supplies is critical. Products such as hands-free soap, paper towel dispensers, disinfectants and sanitizers, along with staff awareness, can help keep an office healthy.”

Survey data shows office workers continue to make avoidable mistakes that fuel the spread of germs:

  • 51 percent of employees only clean their desks once a week or less, even though germs can live on surfaces for up to three days, especially on the keyboard – typically one of the dirtiest personal workspace items.
  • 25 percent believe that door knobs/handles are the dirtiest places in the office, while only 6 percent recognize that the break room sink is actually the dirtiest, followed by the office microwave, which only 8 percent selected.
  • 65 percent feel the number of days necessary to be out of the office with the flu is one to three days and often return to work contagious, as the flu virus may be contagious for one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Survey findings also revealed that nearly half of workers cited their concern about completing work as the reason they don’t stay home sick. More than a quarter of respondents come to work to avoid using a sick day, even though a majority of those surveyed indicated their average productivity level while sick was only around 50 percent.

Facility Managers and Business Service Contractors First Line of Defense

The task of maintaining a healthy work environment is increasingly falling to facility managers (FMs) and building service contractors. Staples separately surveyed this group to determine challenges faced during flu season. The discrepancies between office workers and FMs indicate confusion over who is responsible for cleaning when it comes to flu prevention in the workplace.

Results revealed that almost 40 percent of FMs and their staff are not responsible for cleaning occupants’ personal workspaces. More than half of respondents answered they barely increase the time spent cleaning (between 0 – 10 percent more of their time) during flu season.

According to FMs, some of the top challenges in keeping a building clean and healthy are:

  • More employees working in the same or smaller space (53 percent).
  • Not enough staff to adequately clean (46 percent).
  • A decrease in budget for cleaning products (21 percent) with half of respondents citing that they are unable to provide hand sanitizer and 40 percent unable to provide tissues for employees.

However, survey results revealed that nearly half of all respondents believed they would need less than a 10 percent budget increase to adequately address germ control in their buildings. Currently, more than 50 percent of FM’s aren’t ordering cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.

Staples recommends these easy steps to help maintain a healthier work environment:

Offer/encourage a telecommuting program: Employers may want to consider implementing a telecommuting program – or encourage use of an existing program – as a way to help address employees coming into the office when sick. Of those respondents whose company offers a telecommuting option, nearly half take advantage of the option when sick to avoid spreading germs in office.

Stock up: Nearly half of office workers surveyed request specific items be provided by employers, such as sanitizing wipes, touch-free restroom fixtures, waterless hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap in restrooms and break rooms. Survey results show break rooms need special attention, as most workers aren’t aware of the hidden germs lurking there.

Educate: The similarities between last year’s survey results and this year’s indicate that office workers are still unsure how to best fight the flu. Educate your staff about how often to clean their desks, how long they should stay home when sick and crucial areas in the office that need to be frequently disinfected, so your business can prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses.

Helpful Resources for Businesses of all Sizes offers products and tips to keep small businesses running smoothly.

Staples Advantage Facility Solutions, offers product information, whitepapers, case studies, videos, webinars and other tools to help facility managers and building service contractors fend off the damage of flu season.

About the Survey

Staples conducted an online survey of more than 150 office workers and 100 FMs at organizations of all sizes across the U.S. The survey, conducted in September 2012, asked a series of questions about hygiene in the workplace and flu knowledge.

About Staples

Staples is the world’s largest office products company and second largest internet retailer. The company provides products, services and expertise in office supplies, copy & print, technology, facilities and breakroom, and furniture. Staples invented the office superstore concept in 1986 and now has annual sales of $25 billion, ranking second in the world in eCommerce sales. With 88,000 associates worldwide, Staples operates in 26 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, making it easy for businesses of all sizes, and consumers. The company is headquartered outside Boston. More information about Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS) is available at

About Staples Advantage

Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS), serves organizations of 20 or more employees up to the Fortune 1000, including global businesses, local, state and federal government, healthcare organizations and educational institutions. The Staples Advantage one source solution includes comprehensive products and services from office supplies, technology and printing to promotional products, furniture and facility supplies. Dedicated to providing organizations with greater cost savings and improved ordering efficiencies, Staples Advantage provides a customized level of account support and best-in-class customer service. More information is available at

Source: Staples Advantage

Staples Advantage
Nina Akerley, 469-262-4685