The arrival of cooler weather often means more sick days. The cold and flu season is upon us and nowhere do germs lurk more than a shared office space.
The flu costs American businesses approximately $10.4 billion a year and is responsible for 200 million days of diminished productivity and 75 million days of work absence.
Follow these tips to ensure viruses don’t eat into your work time:
Alan Kohll, Founder and CEO of TotalWellness says while most of us know to wash our hands, the majority of us do it incorrectly, missing key areas such as around the fingernails and in between fingers. “Washing your hands thoroughly takes about 30 seconds to a minute,” says Kohll. Make hand washing a regular part of your workday routine when you arrive at work, after using the restroom and before and after eating. Kohll recommends using a paper towel to open the bathroom door, throwing it out once you’ve left the restroom, not before. “You don’t know how many people didn’t wash their hands and left germs on the door. Even if you did wash your hands properly, you’re basically wiping out what you just did,” he says.
While practicing good hygiene at work is one way to help keep germs at bay, you may also want to consider wiping down the office coffee pot before pouring your morning cup of joe. A recent study by the University of Arizona in Tucson found the office coffee pot is one of the worst germ offenders.
The study examined the speed at which germs spread in an office environment. Within two hours, germs from a push-plate door at the entrance of an office building with 80 employees had made their way to the office coffee pot. From there, contamination spread in all directions including the fridge door handle, individual offices, phones and keyboards–and within four hours, half of office surfaces and the hands of half the office’s employees were contaminated. The best way to avoid office germs? Wipe down all surfaces touched by multiple users.
Your desk can be a breeding ground for germs. Take your lunch to a designated eating area. Just be sure to wipe it down and wash your hands before and after eating.
By getting the flu shot, you’re not only protecting yourself, you’re also helping to prevent passing the virus onto others who haven’t received the shot.
Stock up on immune-boosting foods such as citrus fruits that are high in vitamin C, selenium-rich Brazil nuts, anti-oxidant rich berries, onion and garlic. Ensure you get enough rest, sleep and exercise and avoid things that can compromise your immune health such as smoking and excessive drinking.
Kohll encourages companies to adopt work at home policies. He argues allowing employees to work remotely when sick, could prevent an office flu outbreak. “If you’re encouraging people to come to work sick, you’re making things worse by them possibly affecting five more people when they come to work,” says Kohll.