We have all been a participant in this story. Either you are the poor soul avoiding the coughing, sneezing, flu-ridden coworker, or you have even been the sick employee yourself! Once someone comes to work sick, give it a few days before the entire office is coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and calling off. Even when they make it to the office, we all know that nobody is productive when working on a sick day! So what are some great tips to prevent sick days?
As acknowledged by Travelers Insurance in their article “Cold and Flu Prevention in the Workplace“, the first step to preventing sickness is to truly understand how the flu (officially known as the influenza virus) spreads from person to person. It is a common misconception that flu germs are primarily spread through touching items exposed to the sick person. The truth, as researched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is that the flu germ is mostly spread through the air and can travel up to six feet before meeting its victim! Before one is even aware of the infirmity, they can begin to the spread the germs by coughing or sneezing, and even by spraying spit while talking or eating. Those working in close quarters, like an office, are more likely to spread the illness quickly among themselves and clients.
Sick days impact productivity, quality of work, and employee morale. Although smaller companies are at a higher risk to be impacted by sick employees and decreased productivity, illness prevention has become a priority for all employers. Although common sense lends employees to frequently wash hands, use tissues, take medication, and control their coughs, it seems that the flu still impacts a large majority of employees before the season is over. In search of a viable solution, Travelers Insurance has created five tips for employers that could help to reduce the spread of sickness in a workplace.
- Host Vaccine Clinic – although not a cost effective option for every business, many employers will find this is a great way to make the flu vaccine available to their employees. Those who work long hours, juggle family time, and have other medical priorities will often forgo the flu vaccine simply because it is not convenient. If an employer makes the vaccine available at the office for employees and their families, the convenience factor is no longer a problem and many more employees will take the opportunity to be vaccinated.
- Clean, Clean, Clean! – The flu virus can survive on a surface for up to eight hours (gross) so it is important that all exposed surfaces are cleaned regularly. This includes everyday items like door knobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, desks, the copier and fax, phones, and even little items like community staplers, tape dispensers, and hole punchers. When cleaning, make sure that the cleaning product is effective against viruses like the Influenza A.
- Go Virtual and Stay Away – Some employers find it convenient to allow employees to work from home during sick seasons. By avoiding the office, the employee is able to maintain his own healthy environment by avoiding sick coworkers and community items that might carry the virus. Although this is not a fit for every company and occupation, the ability to stay connected through web meeting, phone, and email has made it so employees can work from home or the office without missing a beat!
- Postpone Travel– Many occupations involve significant hours of traveling, entertaining clients, and other forms of person-to-person interaction. Gracious employers will be willing to postpone meetings and travels if the employee is already feeling ill before leaving. Not only will this benefit the employee, a healthy employee will leave a better impression on clients, business affiliates, and travel companions.
- Spread the Word Before the Flu– Employers can find a variety of online fact sheets and informational pamphlets that can be distributed to employees before the flu starts to spread. These tips can include proper hand washing techniques, sick etiquette for coughing and sneezing, and even local places where the flu shot will be available.
So spread the word, not the flu! Now that you know of ways to prevent the spread of illness, share this with your coworkers and hope for a healthy and happy workplace no matter what virus comes your way.
“Cold and Flu Prevention in the Workplace.” Workplace Safety – Cold & Flu Prevention in the Workplace. The Travelers Indemnity Company. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. <https://www.travelers.com/resources/workplace-safety/cold-and-flu-prevention-in-the-workplace.aspx>.