Though Influenza rates have remained low in the Seattle area this year, everyone’s favorite common cold has been making the rounds at offices and schools across the Puget Sound. It’s fair to say that we can attribute some of this cold sharing to the60% of employees in the United States that say they show up to work sick, according to a 2014 Staples survey. Yikes!
You may be thinking “Marlo, how can we better equip our offices to cut down on the spread of employee sickness this season?!”
I’m glad you asked! Here are a few tips I’ve gathered that may help you conquer cold and flu season in the Puget Sound.
IDENTIFY THE “GERMY HOT SPOTS,” THEN ATTACK THEM WITH DISINFECTANT REGULARLY
Research from the University of Arizona shows that when one person comes to work sick, more than half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will become infected with the virus by lunchtime. In situations like these, you can break it down into two lists: the buttons & the handles.
Buttons are everywhere including elevators, copiers, telephones, and even microwaves. The same can be said for handles – doors, fridges, sinks, even the coffee pot! Make sure your team regularly wipes these surfaces down, as these communal places will harbor and spread more germs than one would realize. Keep cleaning wipes and disinfectants stocked and available for employee use to ensure that everyone gets in the habit of wiping down their office space.
Other hotspots to disinfect include: Tops of counters and desks and most importantly – keyboards – which brings me to…
KEYBOARDS CAN BE DIRTIER THAN YOUR TOILET SEAT
You’re shuddering at the thought, right? When I found this article from the Daily Mail, I could hardly believe it either, but when scientists in the UK swabbed Which? Computing (a British magazine) employee keyboards for testing and found that all of them tested positive for the presence of a staph bacteria – one that is a common cause of blood infections – I found myself reaching for the hand sanitizer. The worst keyboard of the tested bunch was five times dirtier than the office toilet seats, and deemed “condemned.”
Keyboard cleaning is a fairly simple way to stop the spread of germs (especially if you work in places where keyboards and computers are communal). Here’s a step-by-step guide to the basic & intensive cleaning from PC World. Don’t forget about your mouse, too!
KEEP ORANGES OR EMERGEN-C AVAILABLE IN THE BREAK ROOM
It’s a little added expense, sure, but consider healthy employees your ROI. Oranges are packed with Vitamin C, but are not packed with the sugars found in orange juice, and “megadose” packages (Emergen-C for example)can actually help shorten the duration of a cold once it starts to set in. It’s nice to have a box of Emergen-C and a bowl full of oranges in the break room for employees to readily access when the bug starts to make its way into town.
ENCOURAGE FLU SHOTS BEFORE COLD SEASON HITS
According to the CDC, the best way to combat chances of coming down with the flu and/or spreading that flu to others is by getting an annual flu shot. In Seattle alone, there are at least 49 pharmacies that administer the flu vaccine including Rite Aid, Walgreens, Target – even some QFC & Safeway locations. You can find a comprehensive list using the HealthMap Vaccine Finder. (Or, this just in: Call an Uber)
Right before or during flu season, work with HR to send out an email to employees highlighting a few locations that are close to the office that offer flu shots. This may also be a good time to mention common cold etiquette and any work from home or sick day policies if you have them.
I hope this list has helped kick-start some ideas to help your employees stay healthy this cold season. If you do happen to have any unexpected absences due to colds, Parker have temporary resources that can provide short-term coverage as your employee recovers, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Stay healthy out there!