The morning started like any other day at the office. You unlocked the office doors and deactivated the alarm. You turned on a few computers and copy machines. You went into the break room to brew a pot of coffee for your coworkers. But when you turned on the lights in the break area, you got an unpleasant surprise. Scattered across the room – on the floors, counters, walls, and tables – were cockroaches. You gasp, and they immediately respond by sprinting away like it was a track meet. They’ve hidden… for now.

The good news is that you’re not alone. While often touted as a domestic problem, cockroaches can be just as big of a problem at the workplace, sometimes even worse because it’s much easier to overlook their presence. The bad news is that cockroaches are formidable, resilient opponents, so you will need to be smart in how you fight back.

Here are five steps – the ABCs – of preventing a full-blown infestation at your office.

Admitting – A possible pest infestation is often viewed as gross and shameful; many people instinctively deny that there is a problem, or assume that it will fix itself. This will only prolong and exacerbate the problem. Step one is to admit that pests are present. Have a talk with your coworkers and inform them that the problem exists, and it will take a group effort to handle the situation. Similarly, if you share a facility with other businesses, let them know that there is a problem. Roaches can quickly spread between units, so your problem can become theirs if it isn’t handled. Conversely, you might discover that one of them is the actual source of the problem.

Baiting – Baits and traps are the easiest way to combat roaches. Baits typically contain poisons that the roaches will consume and then excrete when they return to their nests. Within weeks, the exposure to excreted poisons will kill all of the other roaches hidden in the walls. Traps, on the other hand, immediately contain (and sometimes kill) roaches. Baits are a long-term solution. Traps are a short term solution. The combination of the two work effectively.

Remember to place baits and traps all around the office. While it may seem like the roaches are only in the kitchen, they might be in other places.

Cleaning – The average office space may look clean to the human eye, but it can be a buffet for bugs. The cup and dish in the sink, the crumbs on the floor, the gunk beside the microwave and refrigerator, are among the many places where cockroaches will find a meal.

It’s time to give that office a thorough cleaning:

  • The tables and floors need to be spotless.
  • Food in cupboards and on counters (or even in unconventional places, like hidden in desks) needs to be put in sealed containers.
  • Dishes cannot sit in the sink.
  • Trash must be taken out every day.
  • And don’t forget about the hard-to-read places, such as under the refrigerator.
  • It is also worth mentioning that cockroaches can consume things that are inedible to humans, such as paper and cardboard, so this is another thing to clean, remove, or secure. Piles of paper and cardboard are not only food sources, but hiding spots.

Drying – Almost more than food, cockroaches need water to survive. They are constantly on the hunt for water sources. Make sure your office is dry. Don’t leave standing water in the sink. Fix leaky pipes and faucets.

Exterminating – If the aforementioned steps do not yield any progress, or if you are dealing with a full blown infestation, it’s best to leave this job to the experts. Exterminators can contain and eliminate a problem of any scale. In larger, multi-unit structures, this may be necessary since the root of the problem may be another occupant infestation that has spread across the facility.

If you have encountered a roach, be aware that what you see might be a sign of a bigger problem, since many more cockroaches are likely lurking behind walls. Thus, a few roaches may be manageable, but if you see a lot, it may be a better idea to skip to step E.