Viruses that cause flu and colds thrive in a less humid atmosphere, meaning they are more active during the colder months. Thus, more people get sick with the flu in the winter season. The cold and flu season is something that all employers dread, but if managed properly, it doesn’t have to be a disaster for your business.
A person becomes highly contagious as soon as they are infected. Employees working while sick with a cold or flu are likely to infect their colleagues when they sneeze/cough and through touch. Once symptoms appear, they will usually take time off, leading to lost work hours and productivity. Employees often go to work even when they’re sick with the flu, but certain measures can be taken to minimize the risk of the virus spreading around the workplace.
Here we look at some steps you can put in place to minimize the risks of spreading cold and flu at the workplace.
Keep your workplace clean
Office space should be cleaned thoroughly and regularly during the colder months to kill the virus transmitted to surfaces. Areas such as workstations, keyboards, door handles and phones are the most likely areas for viral transmission aside from the infected person. As research shows, if a virus is present in these areas, it increases the chance of spreading by up to 60% in just two to four hours. Wiping down these surfaces with disinfectant and ensuring good hygiene practices from staff can reduce virus presence by up to 99%.
The stoic idea of soldiering on regardless does more harm than good. Employees staying at home allows healthy staff to work without worrying about being in contact with someone sick. It shows respect for others. Staying home also improves recovery time. Doctors recommend that adequate rest is essential for fast and complete recovery. This is because our immune function works better with rest. By not staying at home and soldiering on, we make it harder for our immune system to heal us and it may extend the time that we are sick. This inevitably leads to a greater risk of the virus spreading.
Encourage good hygiene practices
All workers must be aware of the correct hygiene procedures to minimize the risks of a flu virus spreading. Regular hand washing is essential and hand sanitiser should also be used wherever possible.
Regular hand washing and hand sanitiser usage minimises virus spreading, particularly after coughing or sneezing. When dealing with a runny nose and using tissues, always dispose immediately into the bin. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hand, instead, if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze into the crook of your elbow. To encourage these measures, putting up signs reminding staff of the correct procedures can be helpful. Make sure your office is stocked with supplies of tissues, hand sanitiser, and disinfectant wipes which are easily accessible to all staff.
Flu vaccination awareness
Make your staff aware that flu vaccinations are an option if there are individuals who have a high risk of developing complications from flu. This should always be optional, taking into account people’s right to choose how to look after their health or on the advice of their health care professional. While beneficial, flu vaccines are not always the best option, as they don’t always provide defence for all strains of the flu virus. The key is flexibility and understanding in this area.