Knowledge is a powerful tool to reduce the negative impacts of a flu outbreak in your office. Informed employees and managers make better decisions about staying healthy and going home when sick.
By making sure your employees do the best they can to stay in good health and remain flu-free, you keep your business running smoothly and efficiently during flu season and beyond.
3 Ways to Avoid Germs
"The influenza virus is highly contagious — 70 percent of people who come in contact with it will get the flu," explains Randy Bergen, MD, an infectious disease doctor and clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente's Northern California flu vaccine program. Share that information with your employees and then encourage them to:
1. Avoid people who are, or appear to be, sick. Keep your distance from anyone having chills, sneezing, sniffling or blowing their nose. "The flu virus is spread through the air and can live on surfaces for hours and hours," Bergen notes. If you must make contact, don't touch your face until you can wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill the germs.
2. Steer clear of crowds and high-traffic areas. Decrease the odds of catching the flu by timing activities for off-peak times, and avoiding particularly germy areas, like malls, movie theaters and transportation hubs. "Certainly air travel aids the spreading of influenza," says Charles Gerba, PhD, a University of Arizona professor of microbiology and environmental sciences who studies the transmission of pathogens through the environment.
3. Be part of the solution. Make it possible for sick employees to go home and stay there until healthier. "It really does no one a favor to ‘power through," Bergen says. "You'll be less productive, you're exposing coworkers, and you may prolong the time you're symptomatic. There is no perfect answer, but in most cases, it's best to stay home to rest." Bergen and other experts recommend staying home until fever-free without medication for 24 hours. Enable easier working from home with mobile or remote access to work files, and take-home devices like dedicated cell phones, tablets or laptops.
3 Ways to Boost Wellness
Proper hygiene at work and at home kills many flu germs floating around. Increase prevention by promoting these practices:
1. Wash hands. This is one of the single best methods of flu prevention. Post signs reminding employees to wash their hands frequently, and especially after coming in contact with frequently touched surfaces and equipment. "When soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer which contains a minimum of 60 percent alcohol can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations," says Will Mayo, RN, an occupational health nurse at the Joseph F. Sullivan Center at Clemson University. Stock plenty of hand soaps and sanitizers along with disposable towels.
2. Take care. "The things you can do to generally make your body healthier, such as exercising regularly, making healthy food choices, doing things to take care of your mental health and happiness…boost the immune system and really help your body fight illness," Bergen says. In addition to promoting the benefits of getting a flu shot, provide healthy snack options and bottled water at work.
3. Cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing. Bare hands will do in a pinch (wash them quickly!) but the best practice is coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow or upper arm. This reduces the transfer of germs to keyboards, doorknobs and drawer handles. Stock facial tissues and hand sanitizer within easy reach of employee areas, especially common areas.
Share this information with your team to help them avoid infection, mitigate germ transmission and stay healthy during flu season and all year long.