One of the best ways to prevent the cold and flu in the workplace is to make sure everyone is constantly aware of the virus. Putting up signs around the workplace serves as a constant reminder to all employees. Place signs on the walls in the bathroom and by the front door of the office to remind employees. Also, make sure you have flyers surrounding the common area in your office. It is very likely bacteria will be spread around the fridge!
Has it ever occurred to you how many people touch your building’s elevator buttons on a daily basis? The likelihood of picking up the virus by just touching the “up” button is very high. How so? Once your finger has touched a contaminated surface, all it takes is for you to touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Tip: Try using your elbow instead.
Lack of sleep can negatively impact your immune system. The less sleep you get, the higher your chances are of contracting the cold and flu. According to Mayo Clinic, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep. So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.”
Make sure you are encouraging employees to get the flu vaccine for themselves and for other members of their household. If necessary, allow them time off to get vaccinated. Although, they will be taking time away from their work, it will save them from having to take a sick day in the future. As for employees, get your flu shot and save your sick days for when you really need them.
Open the windows in your office to let fresh air come in. A stuffy environment holds all of the air in, not allowing it to circulate. Fresh air is proven to help improve your blood pressure and heart rate, increase your mood, aid in digestion, clean your lungs and, most of all, strengthen your immune system.
Make sure your workplace has a constant flow of water that is offered to all employees. If there is no water offered, bring bottled water from home. Water helps fight off the cold and the flu, also helping prevent it. Encourage employees and coworkers to stay hydrated. This will help prevent them from getting sick, which in turn, will prevent you from getting sick.
Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick! The last thing you want is for one employee to come into work and infect other employees with the virus. According to WebMD, “Surveys show that presenteeism – showing up at work when you're sick – is a big problem in the workforce. In 2006, 56% of employers reported the problem, up from 39% in 2005. Most common reasons for showing up sick: Having too much work – and fearing missing deadlines. Nearly 50% feared being disciplined at work for taking sick time.”
Stay away from your co-worker’s phone, computer and desk. Anything they may have touched can be infected with the virus. In many cases, they may have the flu virus and not know it. If you hear them complaining of a headache, sore throat, or stuffy nose, this could be a sign they are undergoing the beginning stages of the virus.
Cleaning more often is very important to ensure the prevention of cold and flu in the workplace. Make sure your cleaning staff is educated on the importance of disinfecting the office. Remind them to sanitize door handles, elevator buttons and kitchen appliances.
Educate your employees on the signs of the flu, some of which include cough, fever and headache. Make sure they are aware of the ways to prevent the flu, such as washing your hands and cleaning work surfaces. Educate them on the importance of getting the flu shot, and let them know that if they need to stay home because they are sick, it is okay.