Maybe the trail of ants munching on your lunch leftovers or the co-worker complaining about itchy bites is not that big of deal to you. Even if we spend much of our waking days at work, the workplace doesn't feel personal, and you may be inclined to think that pests in the office are simply a minor discomfort you shouldn't be too concerned about.
When pests set up residence in your office, they can easily hitch a ride home with you inside your briefcase or on top of your clothes. Two of the most loathsome pests, the German cockroach
and bed bugs
, are known as resourceful hitchhikers that can easily find their way into any area that provides them with food and water sources – and that includes your home, as well.
Once inside your office, the presence of these pests will negatively impact not only your office work, but also your life at home.
- Cockroaches feed primarily on regular food discarded by humans, but they also love to eat glue, paste, paper materials such as letters and books, drapes, and even wallpaper. They are known to transport microbes on their bodies, including pathogens and viruses, which are potentially dangerous to humans. They produce odorous secretions that alter the flavor of and contaminate food, exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals, and are the principal cause of different forms of gastroenteritis (food poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea, etc.)
- Rodents are the scariest of workplace encounters and one of the most damaging pests to have in the office. They are known to cause serious damage in an office environment by gnawing on stored files and electrical wires that could impede work systems. Mice and rats multiply quickly, and in heavily infested environments, their urine, feces, and dead skin flakes can trigger asthma attacks in sufferers. Their excrements contaminate surfaces with Salmonella, causing food poisoning and other illnesses.
- Despite their infamous name, bed bugs are not just found under beds or inside mattresses. Many offices, banks, and retail stores are regularly faced with bed bug infestations. A 2015 survey by NPMA found that 45% of pest control professionals have encountered bed bugs in office buildings. Although bed bugs are not associated with any disease and do not pose relevant risks to a building’s integrity, having them in the office is hard to tolerate, as they multiply at incredible rates and feed off people’s blood.
Aside from these three, almost any other pest that can crawl or fly can find its way inside your office building. Fruit flies feeding on ripe fruit, fungus gnats buzzing around office plants
, pantry pests such as beetles and moths laying eggs in cereal, nuts, crackers, and chocolate, and ants digging out food of the trash are all undesirable presences in a place of business.
What Can You Do about Pests Ransacking Your Office?
Identify and eliminate problem areas
. First, it’s important to keep an eye on the places where office pests are likely to gather. Kitchens and trashcans are common problematic areas because they provide plentiful food sources for cockroaches and rats, while bathrooms may potentially be harboring pests because of all the water. Move the furniture around and look behind everything for signs of nest activity. Knowing what you’re up against is the first step towards identifying and applying the correct control treatment.
Most office pests can enter the building the same way as you do - through the front door. However, given their tiny size, they can also make use of the cracks and holes in the walls or pipes that come through a wall of floor and aren't sealed properly. Use caulk and foam insulation to cover any holes and crevices that might harbor pests and report them to your office manager for permanent repair.
Eliminate the clutter
. A cluttered office is not only going to make you less motivated and productive
, but also attract unwanted insects and rodents at your desk. Disorganized storage areas provide excellent hiding spots for bed bugs, while leaving food on your desk overnight will bring in armies of cockroaches, ants, and rodents.
To prevent pest attacks in the office, food should be restricted to the kitchen and break room areas and put away in sealed containers or in the refrigerator (in case of ripe fruit). If people are allowed to eat at their desks, they should bring all wrappers and containers to the kitchen for disposal, rather than throwing them in their waste basket. Any food scraps or spills left overnight in or around desks are an invitation to office pests for a late night snack.
Spread the word
. To keep the workspace clean and tidy, you will undoubtedly have to get all your colleagues on board. Everyone in the office should be educated about pests and the ways they may be brought in the office. Bedbugs
and cockroaches are almost always brought from outside, therefore an infestation in the office might indicate an infestation at home.
Don’t spray pesticides you brought from home
. When pests invade your workspace, you may be tempted to bring in your own pesticides and spray them yourself. Even if you think a product is inoffensive, spraying toxic chemicals inside the office is never a good idea
. Even botanical sprays can cause eye irritation, coughing, and nausea, and may cause or trigger asthma attacks.
Bring in the pros
. Lack of regular inspection often invites a pest invasion. If your problem is bigger than a couple of ants working on a fallen cracker or a single cockroach grooming in the sink, your best bet is to call in the pros. Trained pest management professionals have the necessary equipment
and expertise to not only locate problem areas and use safe control options to eliminate infestations, but also to prevent future outbreaks in your office.
Certainly, no one wants to deal with cockroaches or rodents while they're trying to get their work done. Addressing these problems immediately and resorting to professional pest control assistance
as soon as you notice signs of infestation will ensure that your office space is thoroughly cleaned and rid of unwanted visitors.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.