In new research, global staffing firm Accountemps found that 90% of professionals admitted they sometimes come to the office with cold or flu symptoms. And worse yet, 33% of them ALWAYS go to work even when they’re ill with the cold or flu. Yikes! That’s not right, but it’s the real world.
All of that adds up to over 17 million workdays lost annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), because of flu. That’s a whopping $7 billion in lost productivity – or $411 per employee per flu sick day.
Avoiding Flu Contagion at Work
Flu germs spread on surfaces, through the air and via people. The flu virus is very stubborn. It can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. To get the flu, you only need to touch a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touch your mouth, eyes or nose.
Or you can get the flu from droplets created by others who cough, sneeze or even talk within 6 feet of your person. That’s how far the flu can fly! Give yourself a fighting chance by following these ‘6 Essential Rules of Office Etiquette During Flu Season.’
Rule #1: Regularly Clean and Disinfect Commonly Touched Surfaces
Viruses on door handles, light switches or sink faucets can spread quickly in an office. Even computer mice can carry disease! Cleaning any of these hard surfaces with disinfecting wipes can reduce surface contamination in these hot spots for germs.
Workplaces that provide these kinds of supplies to employees proactively can have an impact in reducing the spread of viruses. According to a University of Arizona study, using a “wash, wipe, sanitize” protocol in the workplace reduced the probability of catching the flu or common cold by an amazing 80%.
Quick Tip: Remember to clean your desk phone and mobile phone at least weekly during flu season with a wipe that also disinfects.
Rule #2: Wash Your Hands Often
This is your first line of defense because your hands touch your T-Zone (eyes, nose and mouth) hundreds of times each day. It’s especially important to wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, and after being outside.
Quick Tip: Use soap with warm water to lather up for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Always dry your hands with a fresh towel.
Rule #3: Actively Prevent the Spread of Your Germs
Always, always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. It’s preferable to use a disposable tissue or handkerchief. But what do you do if there’s no tissue handy?
In that case, cough or sneeze into your elbow. The material from your clothing will act as a barrier to trap the flu droplets from infecting others, while also keeping them away from your hands where you could unconsciously spread the virus.
DYK: The flu virus is a bit like ‘The Fast & Furious.’ When you sneeze or cough, you can generate up to 3,000 infectious droplets that fly through the air at a velocity of more than 100 miles per hour.
Rule #4: Avoid Sharing Coffee Mugs and Utensils in Office Kitchens
During the flu season, it’s best to use disposable (and eco-friendly) products. But if you have a favorite coffee mug, take responsibility for cleaning and storing it. That means don’t leave it in the office kitchen sink for someone else to wash. And put it inside your own desk drawer rather than leave it out on a shared kitchen counter where others could walk by and inadvertently expose it to cold and flu germs.
Quick Tip: If you must wash a coffee mug at work, then clean it thoroughly just like you would wash your own hands – with lots of soap lather and running it under warm water for at least 30 seconds. When you’re ready to dry it, use a clean paper towel that you can dispose of when done.
Rule #5: Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Your top priority should always be to get plenty of sleep. Being well-rested may be your body’s best defense to avoid getting sick in the first place. And remember to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and stay hydrated during the dry winter months.
Quick Tip: Boost your immunity by adding cinnamon to your favorite espresso or latte. Cinnamon helps inhibit inflammatory substances. And don’t forget about Vitamin C. While it may not keep you from getting sick, Vitamin C has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of an illness.
Rule #6: If You Get Sick, Stay Home
The CDC says that 1/5 of the US population will get the flu in any given flu season. Adults may be able to infect others one day BEFORE getting symptoms and up to one week AFTER getting sick. Children can be infectious even longer, up to several weeks.
If you have flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. If you feel well enough and can work from home, that’s even better.
Quick Tip: How do you know if you have the flu? According to the CDC, people who have the flu often experience fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Miller’s offers disinfecting wipes and a complete line of office cleaning tools and products to help keep your office sanitized, protected this flu season. Want help to prep your office for the flu season? We have a Healthy Workplace Program to educate and engage your team in proactive wellness practices across your office. We’ll customize a program to your needs and workplace, recommending the right products to ensure a healthy workspace.