Anyone who works in an office is familiar with the dread that comes with the cold season. First, one coworker starts coughing and sneezing, then another, and before you know it, more people are out sick than at work. There are many ways to avoid the flu and common colds becoming office epidemics. If you don’t already have a workplace wellness program in place in your office, you should consider starting one. If you do, here are a few things to incorporate this winter to help keep colds to a minimum.
1. Hand washing is important.
This is something we all hear constantly, but it’s true: hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, colds, and infections. Make sure your office mates are educated on the importance of proper handwashing. For extra impact, you can even observe National Handwashing Awareness Week in December.
2. Cover your nose and mouth properly.
Most of us were taught as children to cover our noses and mouths with our hands when we cough or sneeze, to prevent all our germs from flying around in the air and infecting others. This doesn’t work entirely, since the germs are instead on our hands, which we use to touch objects that others may touch, and we can spread the germs this way. Instead, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow and encourage others to do the same.
3. Keep common areas clean.
Most offices have surfaces that almost every employee will touch daily – the bathrooms, the coffee maker in the break room, photocopiers and fax machines, doorknobs, and many others. Make sure these stay clean and disinfected during the height of the cold season.
4. Encourage good general health.
As part of an employee wellness program, this should be covered year-round. Especially during cold and flu season, encourage employees to eat healthily, reduce stress as much as possible, and get enough sleep. Overall good health helps the body to fight off infections more effectively.
If possible, set up a day where employees can get flu shots in the office. If that’s not possible, provide the information for where they are able to get one locally, and whether or not it’s covered by your insurance carrier. Flu shots are effective and the more people that get them, the less likely it is to spread through the whole office if one person comes in sick.
Even using all of these tactics, remember that colds are difficult to prevent entirely. Even the best workplace wellness won’t prevent all sick days, but education on preventing the spreading of illness can go a long way in lessening them and keeping everyone as productive and happy as possible this winter.