Limiting infection risks in an open plan office

Hello everyone,

We took a call from a lady on the helpline this morning who does not have access to HU and she would like some suggestions to the following question:

“I would like some suggestions regarding working in an open plan

environment and managing RA with infections on the floor plate (we have a

diagnosed case of whooping cough in our team). My job involves working

on a large (over 50 people) open floor plate office where we all share

desks. Schools have just returned which means that infections such as

whooping cough, chicken pox, flu etc are starting to once again "flare"

(sorry, bad pun!) up and I was wondering if others on the Forum have any

coping mechanisms they have employed to limit the risk? I take alcohol

hand gel with me when changing desks but this doesn't stop general

sneezing etc around me. “

Any help or suggestions that people can give her would be very much appreciated. I will pass on all your suggestions to her.


Beverley (NRAS Helpline)

Last edited by

9 Replies

  • Her employer should know that under the Equality Act they have a duty to offer and make reasonable adjustments for staff who have a disability. In this situation, I think that she is entitled to (at the very least) ask to have her own laptop and desk-space to reduce the risk of getting an infection. Ideally, she should have access to working in a separate office while there are so many illnesses within the team at the moment. She should ask her manager about this. Flexible working including working from home should also be offered. She should make sure she has the yearly flu jab and potentially the pneumovax (one to discuss with her GP). The key message for her employer is that as an immuno-compromised/suppressed person she is more vulnerable to picking up infections which tend to take longer to recover from (ie are likely to need antibiotics to treat effectively). Therefore she should definitely have her own computer/lap-top rather than sharing with others and perhaps could sit on the edge of the room to limit exposure to other people's sneezing etc. I'm not currently working but when I was I had my own desk and computer (no-one else used it) and didn't sit in the middle of the large open plan office but near the end. I asked my manager for flexible working and I was able to work from home at least one day a week on injection days. Hope this helps a bit.

  • Thanks Francherry,

    I will pass that information on to her,


    Beverley (NRAS Helpline)

  • I would think that one thing management could do would be to provide information/ training about how not to spread infection. Proper way to sneeze etc. Bring anti-bacterial wipers to use on phones, door handles, keyboards etc.

    But considerate behaviour from other people would help.

  • Thanks Cathie

  • I work for a local authority and we must have an office 4 or 5 times that size. No one gets paid for the first 2 days off sick, so people come in to the office when they are too unwell to work but don't want to lose their pay. I mentioned it when I first started and they thanked me for bringing it up, suggesting that the managers would have a meeting to discuss management of this as I am not the first immunosuppressed person to express concern.

    I hope this doesn't come across as negative but I also think there is scope to learn to remain calm and not panic too much. My understanding is that we are not at risk of serious infections (unless on anti TNFs and even then, they are not that common). I was told the only thing that it is serious is being in contact with people with chicken pox if you are not immune. Every time we get on the bus, go to the GP surgery, go to the supermarket we are coming in contact with germs, so try not to lick any public floors and you'll probably be ok. ;)

  • I agree with Crashdoll. We are at the same risk in the community and if you have regular hand washing and handgel it helps stop spreads of infections.

    Keeping your own desk , computer and cup would be helpful. But I was told that our immunity is not compromised as low as say someone receiving treatment for cancers. I have been on biologics for four years and haven't caught any more infections so far than a normal year previously.

    I'm saying this as I hope it reassures you somewhat. X

  • Thanks everyone for all your replies. I will pass them on


    Beverley (NRAS Helpline)

  • I have my own everything cutlery plates mugs I wipe desk with anti bac wipes and I have my own keyboard special shape. And I try not to panic . If someone is obviously ill I avoid but I try not to obsess xx

  • Thanks norfolkjo


You may also like...