A less talked about workplace hazard is contracting a flu at the office. Even though colds and flu are easily contagious, their transmission can be reduced with a few simple precautions. Here are some workplace tips for employers and employees concerned about a potential sickness in the workplace.
First things first, be aware of flu season. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu occurs during the cold months, with activity peaking between December and February, sometimes lasting until May.
Education and hygiene reminders
- Share information about cold and flu, including how they are transmitted and how they can be prevented. Both are airborne, spreading through droplets released in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. They also spread when people touch things after coughing into their hands or sneezing. The many surfaces that individuals touch throughout the day are key source cold, germs and viruses that cause cold, flu or other respiratory illnesses.
- Place/email hygiene reminders as peak flu season approaches, encouraging employees to:
– Take a time off from work if they are sick, or work remotely if they’re up to it.
– Cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing (a basic workplace etiquette).
– Wash their hands after using the toilet or before eating in the office kitchen or breakroom.
– Wipe their desks and keyboards with a disinfectant wipe before starting the day’s work.
Provide teams with infection prevention tools
Your office, kitchen and toilets should have alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which are extremely effective in preventing the spread of viral and bacterial diseases, including colds, H1N1 and seasonal flu. They kill most types of bacteria and virus in a matter of seconds.
Replace cloth towels with paper towels to prevent germs from lurking around. Electric dryers may be more energy-efficient than the manufacture of paper towels, so it is worth pondering a solution that strikes a balance between cost and environment friendliness.
Know the symptoms
Employers and employees should be able to spot symptoms of cold or flu, to take suitable action immediately. Usually, symptoms like coughing or a blocked nose are not detectable early on, making infection a possibility. However, once the symptoms are visible/experienced, employees can request to or be advised to work from home or rest completely, depending upon the severity of their cold/flu.
In a situation where employees notice cold or flu symptoms in the middle of the day, they should leave early, if possible. Employers should have a protocol for contact their supervisor for permission to leave. Employers need to recognize the impact on overall workplace productivity result from the spread of illness versus the short term impact of a sick individual leaving early.
Most people carry a hand sanitizer these days, but if you don’t, you may want to keep one in your bag just in case you arrive one day to find colleagues sniffling, coughing and sneezing away!
Low humidity dries out mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to infection. Use humidifiers and vaporizers at home. If your workplace can do with better humidity and temperature regulation talk to management.
In the cold months, indoor heating at your office or home can decrease humidity levels. If it isn’t too cold outside, consider going for a walk to get some fresh air and keep dryness away.
Other tips to keep colds and flu at bay:
- A lifestyle that does not have an adverse effect on your immune system. A strong immune system reduces the severity of cold and flu.
- If you are prone to allergies, find ways to keep them in control, as they can cause inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, making it easy to contract a virus.
- Get the flu vaccine to safeguard against the flu, particularly if you’re at a risk of developing flu-related complications.
By following these simple tips, both employees and employers benefit from reducing colds and flu in the workplace.