It’s the height of cold and flu season again, and the CDC is reporting a tough one, with 29 million reported cases of flu alone so far. One thing cold and flu viruses really love is when a bunch of people from a lot of different places gather together in one building grabbing the same doorknobs, sharing office supplies, and shaking hands all day. That’s the reason Cold and flu season costs employers around $20bn in lost productivity and wages annually.
Staying Well at Work
Cold and flu season may be a way of life, but there are some simple steps you can take in the office to minimize its impact:
- Work from home/take a sick day – All that lost productivity is due to one sick employee not staying home and getting five other healthy employees sick! Americans are notorious for not taking sick days when they probably should, so be sure to take a day if you show symptoms. If your culture supports it, working from home is a good option for those who may be contagious but still wish to contribute.
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant – Hygiene is the arch nemesis of cold and flu viruses! Keep hand sanitizer available in common areas and provide personal-size bottles for everyone to keep at their desk. Wash your hands with soap and warm water a few times a day. Disinfectant spray or wipes are an easy way to keep high-contact surfaces (doorknobs, phone receivers, etc.) germ-free.
- Mental health check-in – Poor mental health carries side effects like insomnia and lack of deep sleep, both of which weaken the immune system, making employees more susceptible to illness. Regular personal check-ins from management can go a long way toward staying on top of your employees’ holistic health. If an employee is struggling, remind them that mental health days are valid for taking sick time.
- Workplace flu vaccinations – Pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid can help you set up an onsite flu shot service for your workplace, which is about 50% to 60% effective against the virus in adults age 18-64 according to the Mayo Clinic. The CDC also has helpful resources for promoting vaccinations in the workplace.
Keep It Clean
Don’t get the sniffles over cold and flu season – make some moves to create a healthy work environment and focus on containing outbreaks with these handy tips, and don’t stop there. Regularly checking in with how employees feel and focusing on holistic health year-round always creates a more engaged, self-aware, and satisfied workforce.