It’s that time of year when you start to hear coughing and sneezing throughout the workplace. Work environments can be a breeding ground for the flu, spreading the virus through close contact and shared work spaces. But don’t worry—there are ways to prevent this irritating virus from ruining your productivity.
The cold and flu season typically runs from November through April. Readily spread when people are indoors, cold and flu viruses are often passed along from person to person and surface to surface in the workplace. However, there are many actions you can take to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses at work.
Hands are the main transmitter of germs with 80 percent of all infections transmitted by the hands. Hands are used to cover coughing mouths, wipe runny noses and rub itchy eyes. That makes it crucial to clean shared surfaces and equipment regularly to ensure cold and flu viruses are removed. Ideally that means wiping them down with disposable disinfectant wipes, including door knobs and handles; buttons on equipment such as photocopiers; surfaces of shared equipment; keyboards; telephone buttons and handles; handles on vending machines and kitchen equipment like coffee pots and microwaves; benches and counters; books or other materials which are shared. These germ hotspots are responsible for spreading germs, bacteria and infections from one employee to another.
Regular handwashing with soap is an effective way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria and avoid infections. This practice alone could reduce the number of people catching colds and the flu, which makes it important for employees to be educated and reminded about the importance of regular hand-washing, including the proper technique and amount of soap to use. A successful hand hygiene program should include the use of proper handwashing products.
Make hand sanitizers, with at least 60 percent alcohol, accessible throughout the facility, including in restrooms, on individual desks, near doorways and at food consuming areas such as cafeterias and break rooms. Provide extra bottles of hand sanitizers in each office and encourage employees to wipe down their phones, computers, desktops and workstations at least once a day. Make sure to sanitize the work area of any employee who has taken ill and even work stations of employees who are sneezing, coughing or showing signs of other cold or flu symptoms. This can go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.
Spread the word by placing prevention awareness signs or posters on how to correctly wash hands, how much soap to use and other ways to stay healthy in such areas as restrooms, kitchens and high-traffic areas like hallways and lobbies. Make it the norm that employees who are ill and contagious remain at home so they do not put other employees at risk.
Companies who employee a cleaning service on a less than daily basis, should increase the number of times these cleaners come around to make sure the work environment is cleaned thoroughly from top to bottom with extra attention paid to restrooms, kitchens, break rooms and desktops. Make sure they are using the proper cleaning solutions and disinfectants to bust through germs and viruses.
Further combat the spread of illness with the use of proper floor mats, both outside and inside each entryway. With a high-performance matting system, roughly 90 percent of the dirt and soil brought into any building can be contained within the first 10 to 15 feet and that reduces the volume of germs and allergens entering a building.
During the cold and flu season, routinely clean air vent covers, filters and floor drains, and avoid over-wetting surfaces to prevent mold and mildew growth and be sure to remove any mildew deposits that do occur on an immediate basis.
Promoting wellness is the best way to prevent colds and flu in the workplace but it must be done with a team effort. Taking action to provide a healthy workplace shows an organization’s commitment to employee well-being, while at the same time cutting down on absenteeism and increasing productivity so everyone wins.
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