Dragging yourself into work when you're under-the-weather is not recommended, but it does happen and can be especially concerning during cold and flu season. It can also be a psychological problem: Statistics compiled by the National Business Group on Health show billions of dollars in lost productivity from the flu alone, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. Fortunately, attacking the problem isn't rocket science. Here are a few low-cost, common sense steps that can help you protect your office from this seasonal scourge.
A Hand Out
When there's a bug going around your community or your office, it's often spread by touch. From an infected person's hand, viruses or bacteria spread to computer keyboards, light switches, doorknobs, the break room refrigerator and microwave, and lots of other surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizer as a simple and effective way to help break the chain of transmission. Wall-mounted dispensers — touchless models in particular — can go anywhere you have a wall, a corner or a sturdy cubicle. Free-standing dispensers are affordable and can suit large, open spaces such as foyers or reception areas. Consider keeping a supply of individual bottles on hand for any odd locations where a dispenser won't fit.
Work Up a Lather
Hand sanitizers work well as a complement to hand washing, but not as an outright substitution. The skin's natural oils, grease from food, and soil or residues from tools or office equipment can all provide hiding places for bacteria or viruses. Scrubbing with plenty of hot, soapy water removes those havens from the skin, as well as the pathogens themselves. Your local health authority may be able to provide printed or downloadable posters to go alongside your washroom sinks, explaining the correct procedure for hand washing. Proper hygiene requires 20 seconds of scrubbing, which is longer than you might think. Consider investing in a hand soap that won't dry your staffers' skin.
Wipe 'Em Away
Lavish use of sanitizer and hand soap go a long way towards keeping your office healthy, but those hands only stay clean until they touch something. To keep the most-used surfaces in your office sanitary, stock up on disinfectant wipes and hand them out liberally. Any surfaces that are handled frequently — phones, computers, doorknobs, light switches and anything in the break room — should be wiped down often. If you're diligent about cleaning both surfaces and hands, it's much more difficult for the flu, colds or other nastiness to spread throughout the office.
The Airborne Invasion
Although the flu and cold viruses can live on surfaces for long enough to be inconvenient, they're most dangerous when airborne. Coughing and sneezing expel the virus into the surrounding air, and your own ventilation system spreads it from there. A plentiful supply of facial tissue is a simple, low-tech response to this problem. Try to place tissues at every workstation and everywhere your staffers congregate. It's not a foolproof solution, but it will help reduce the likelihood of illness spreading throughout your workplace.
The combination of tissues, sanitizer, soap and disinfecting wipes can sharply reduce the cold season's impact on your productivity, but only if — and it's a big if — they're used properly. That part's largely up to you. Offer time off to visit a clinic for flu shots or organize a flu shot clinic at your workplace. Most importantly, encourage people to go home when they're ill. Fighting an illness might sound laudable, but in the real world, it usually results in making your co-workers sick, unhappy and unproductive.
With a background in technology, business and personal finance, and B2B sales, Fred Decker has over eight years of experience writing on a broad range of business topics. He’s been featured in top publications including the Houston Chronicle.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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