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Survey Says: Offices Have a Lot to Learn About the Flu

Have you cleaned your work desk lately? Or ever? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Staples third annual flu season survey found that more than half of office employees clean their desks less than once per week.

So, why should you add this easy task to your to-do list? Germs, including the flu virus, can live on surfaces for up to three days. And keyboards – that can trap whatever germs your hands have come into contact with around the office, not to mention food crumbs - are often one of the dirtiest items in personal workspaces.

According to the Staples survey, office workers make other avoidable mistakes that can fuel the spread of germs. And when it comes to flu knowledge, they don’t have all the facts.

 

The sick truth

Twenty-five percent of those surveyed believe that doorknobs and door handles are the dirtiest surfaces in the entire office. While those items are definitely germ magnets, the breakroom sink actually takes the dirtiest title, followed by the community microwave. Only six percent of workers correctly guessed the sink, and only eight percent said the microwave.

Not only are many people unaware of where germs may be lurking in the office, they’re also responsible for bringing the flu into work with them.

A whopping 80% of workers admitted to going to work when they knew they were sick, up 20% from last year’s survey. And 65% think it’s only necessary to stay home from work with the flu for 1-3 days. Actually, the flu virus may be contagious for one day before symptoms develop, and 5-7 days after an individual becomes sick.

Why don’t sick employees just stay home? The number one reason provided by nearly half of respondents was concern about completing their work. About a quarter of workers cited not wanting to use a sick day. In addition to possibly infecting others, ill employees may also negatively impact work quality and performance. A majority of those surveyed said their productivity level is only around 50% when they’re feeling sick.

 

What your business can do

In a typical year, the flu virus is responsible for approximately 70 million missed workdays and an estimated $10 billion in lost office productivity. Here are a few things you can do to keep employees, and your business, healthy.

 

Raise your office’s flu IQ

Three years of Staples surveys show that office workers are not fully informed when it comes to the flu. So educate your workers about how often to clean their desks, office areas that should be disinfected frequently, and the appropriate amount of time to stay home when they’re sick. And when you see unhealthy behaviors going on in the workplace, use it as an opportunity to spread more knowledge – and fewer germs.

 

Stock up on flu fighters

In a separate Staples survey of office Facility Managers, 40% of respondents said their staff do clean individual employee’s workspaces. And more than half said they barely increase time spent cleaning during flu season. So make sure your office has all the essentials your workers need to keep both shared and personal areas clean and germ free.

Businesses of all sizes turn to Staples for products that keep sick days down and productivity up. “At Staples, we know that companies are already doing more with fewer resources, and flu season has the potential to impact productivity,” said Lisa Hamblet, Vice President of Facilities Solutions for Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples. “Prevention is key, and using the right supplies is critical. Products such as hands-free soap, paper towel dispensers, disinfectants and sanitizers, along with staff awareness, can help keep an office healthy.”

 

Consider working sick – from home

Obviously, it would be best if employees stayed home and rested until they felt better and were no longer contagious. But according to Staples survey results, many are worried about not getting work done or using up sick days. So, businesses may want to consider offering a telecommuting option as a way to prevent sick employees from coming in to work. Of those respondents whose companies offer a telecommuting option, nearly half take advantage of it when sick to avoid spreading germs in the office.

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