There’s a higher likelihood of experiencing respiratory illness during cold and flu season, which spans most of fall and winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that this can run from October through May, with a peak in February. During this time, both employees and employers need to take steps to keep the workplace healthy.
Improving basic hygiene in the workplace is by far the most important method for staying healthy during this time of the year. Avoid close contact with people who are ill and, if someone becomes sick, they need to seek out the necessary health care. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explained how individuals need to take precautions for a safe workplace environment.
How Can Employees Protect Themselves?
Employees play a big role in keeping the workplace healthy. There are several steps employees can take to remain healthy during cold season.
- Obtain the flu vaccination – This is one of the most effective methods for preventing the spread of flu, OSHA noted.
- Stay home – Employees should feel comfortable with not reporting to work if they have active symptoms.
- Improve basic hygiene – This includes using soap to wash hands for at least 20 seconds and using an alcohol-based sanitizer in between washings. It also means employees should avoid sneezing into their hands and making sure to cough into tissues.
How to Create an Office That’s Ready for the Flu Season
Being proactive is always best. Though it’s not possible to eliminate the risk of cold and flu season invading the workplace, there are steps both workers and employers can take to reduce some of those risks.
- Sanitize surfaces often – Any surface touched with the hands is likely to spread germs. Wipe down phones, desks, computers, equipment and work tools thoroughly several times a day to ensure they remain germ-free.
- Keep a supply of tissues and sanitizer available – Most people will instinctively reach for a tissue before sneezing if one is available.
- Keep the kitchen areas clean – Shared water fountains, coffee mugs and kitchen surfaces are a high risk for bacteria. Use anti-microbial soaps whenever possible or alcohol-based hand wipes to keep these surfaces clean.
Employers Benefit From a Healthy Workforce
Keeping employees healthy will directly benefit the company. By encouraging sick employees to stay home or to work remotely, you keep the rest of your team healthy. This can keep productivity high and ensure deadlines are met. Don’t encourage the office hero who never calls out when he or she is ill. Instead, encourage flu shots, rest days and seeking out a doctor when not feeling well. Once an illness is brought into the office space, it can be hard to get rid of it.
Cold and flu season can be devastating to the office environment if everyone doesn’t participate in keeping it clean and germ-free. It can take just a few days of exposure to have everyone ill and missing work. Do your best to avoid this by playing a proactive role in maintaining a healthy workplace.
Sandy Baker is a full-time freelance writer specializing in health, personal finance and internet marketing. Her long-term history online has included publications with companies including Marriott Hotels, The New York Times and dozens of other small and medium-sized businesses. She is also published in print with award-winning books such as The Complete Guide to Estate Planning, Complete Guide to Early Retirement, The Complete Bankruptcy Guide for Consumers and Small Businesses and The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care.