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Interested in learning more? Visit the Flu Center.

A Flu Prevention Guide for the Workplace

Flu season is upon us and that means runny noses, chills and body aches. For a small business and its employees, that translates to days of lost productivity when members of your team are home in bed or feeling sick in the office.

The best method for preventing a slowdown in your office is getting your flu vaccination, and encouraging your team to do the same. This is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the flu, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Everyone 6 months old and older should get an annual flu vaccine, even if vaccinated last season.

Here are some other tips you can follow to ensure you and your co-workers aren't knocked out by the flu.

Tips for All Employees

About 80 percent of all infectious diseases are spread by touch. That’s just one reason why it’s important to wash your hands frequently, with soap and water for 20 seconds, or to use an effective hand sanitizer (alcohol-free or alcohol-based) if soap and water are not available. Clean hands, either through washing or using hand sanitizer, reduces the risk for colds and other respiratory illnesses by 21 percent, according to the CDC.

Further, you should avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes to keep the germs you may come in contact with in the office from making their way into your body. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. If your office has them, dispose of tissues in no-touch trash receptacles.

Routinely clean keyboards, phones and other frequently touched objects and surfaces at your own work station to help remove soils containing germs. Why is it so important to clean these areas? Because, believe it or not, the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria on it than the average toilet seat does. (Gross!)

Clorox calls these areas “germ hot spots” and recommends that you try not to use other workers’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment. If necessary, consider cleaning and disinfecting them. It may make for an awkward moment when you wipe down a co-worker’s phone before using it, but that’s better than getting sick.

If you do begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible so you can minimize your co-workers’ exposure to whatever malady you may have. In a poll conducted by Staples, 80 percent of employees said they’d come into work even when sick, but 34 percent said they’d prefer it if their co-workers stayed home when they’re sick.

If you wake in the morning and feel ill, alert your boss. More and more companies these days have flexible work arrangements, so if you can work from home, do so. Call your doctor to see if you need to schedule an appointment. Your doctor may be able to prescribe anti-viral drugs to make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick, which will get you back to work quicker.

Tips for Small Business Owners

If you own or run your own small business, you probably already know how the flu can affect productivity. On average, workplace absenteeism due to personal illness costs U.S. businesses $230 per employee. If you’re a small business of even 30 people, that means almost $7,000 lost annually.

In addition to encouraging the flu vaccination for all your employees, it’s important to encourage effective communication throughout your company. Make sure you provide information about the importance of flu vaccinations, proper cleaning and disinfection, general flu facts and office wellness tips to employees and staff. If you have the available resources, spread the message about flu prevention with posters in the break room or flyers in employees’ mailboxes.

You can also make it easy for your workers to avoid germs. Place hand sanitizers in areas identified as germ hot spots and consider hands-free soap dispensers in the bathrooms and kitchens. These items are low-cost and effective at stopping the spread of germs.

Step up your cleaning program to more frequently clean commonly touched surfaces, like door handles and elevator buttons. For starters, you should keep a full supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs and disposable wipes on hand.

And finally, consider some flexibility in scheduling to let staff get their vaccination, stay home when they’re sick or work from home. Even though people should stay home for at least 24 hours when sick with the flu, the latest technologies, like tablets, laptops and other home office solutions are making it easier for employees to be productive remotely.

Preventing the Flu Is Everyone’s Job

No matter what your role at a company, you can pitch in to keep the flu on permanent vacation this season. Following these tips and encouraging your coworkers to do the same will help keep everyone healthy and productive.

 

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