It’s that time of year when you start hearing coughing and sneezing throughout the office. While cold and flu season typically runs from November – April, it seems to have started early this year. Because cold and flu viruses spread easily from person to person when they’re in close proximity, and often passed along on shared surfaces, the office can be one of the most dangerous places to be if you want to avoid being sick.
Here are five tips to keep your staff healthy and your company running smoothly during the next 6 months.
1) Post reminders to employees to wash their hands for at least 15-20 seconds with soap several times a day, or use an alcohol-gel hand sanitizer, following contact with potentially contaminated surfaces:
- Other people’s hands (i.e. after a handshake)
- Doorknobs or handles (including common-use microwaves and refrigerators)
- Copier machine buttons or parts
- Another person’s keyboard or phone
- Coffee pot handle
- Elevator buttons
- Shared books or other office materials
- Shared hand or power tools
2) Encourage employees to clean shared items such as phones, keyboards, handles and door knobs with alcohol wipes or other sanitizer-type wipes at least daily.
3) Provide these items in the workplace, to assist with keeping your employees healthy and to prevent the spread of germs:
- Water, decaffeinated tea, or juice (adequate fluids are important to the immune system)
- Eye drops
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cough drops/lozenges
4) Encourage your employees to be vaccinated against the flu. If possible, contact a local medical organization, such as the Visiting Nurses Association, and ask them to come and give flu shots to your employees at an appointed time.
5) Send sick employees home. According to the CDC, people are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of contracting a cold and almost immediately and for about 5 days thereafter after being infected with the flu – even before symptoms develop. If at all possible, encourage employees to stay home during their most contagious days; if they can work from home, productivity will not come to a halt.