5 Tips to Help Protect Your Workplace Against the Flu and Other Nasty Germs
With this year appearing to be one of the worst and deadliest flu seasons in more recent years, many employers are taking greater steps this year to try to protect themselves and their workers from an outbreak. Here are a few suggestions on ways you can help prevent the spread of the flu or other seasonal illnesses:
Strongly encourage employees to stay home if they are sick (or if a family member they need to care for is sick) and provide reminders of responsible/healthy etiquette
Send an email to all your employees and post a copy in a centralized location to remind workers of the importance of staying home or even working from home when they are sick, so that they do not infect other workers. You can even highlight specific symptoms that are of concern and worthy of a sick day request through your time and attendance system (fever over 100 degrees F, cough, etc.). Check with your health insurance provider to see if they might have input/suggestions on a good protocol. You may even want to appoint an HR staff member or managers to make daily rounds and say good morning to employees to create a nice environment and also check that no “die hards” are trying to power through their illness to avoid a sick day. Such employees might need that extra nudge and a gentle reminder that the business can function without them and might function much better since they will not be infecting others. Much like they do at schools, you can also remind your employees of the importance of sneezing into elbows and frequent hand washing.
Consider setting up an onsite flu vaccination clinic
By making it convenient for your workers to get the flu shot, you may encourage even more people to get vaccinated outside of their annual physicals or other check ups. Rite Aid offers a Workplace Flu Shot Program and other providers may as well, so this is another good topic of discussion with your health insurance provider.
Provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting cleaning wipes
Enlist the help of your employees further to prevent themselves and others from getting sick by providing them with the tools to fight those nasty germs that are out there. Keep these items conveniently distributed throughout your office to encourage frequent use and include reminders for germ-prone areas and surfaces (door handles, phone sets, computer keyboards and mouses, etc.). Request volunteers or create a schedule to help clean common areas (copiers and fax machines, refrigerator door handles, cabinets, sink knobs and faucets, restroom doors, light switches and elevator buttons, etc.) or ask that your cleaning service assist with additional cleaning tasks.
Ditch that office sponge or throw it in the dishwasher or microwave
Sponges can be magnets for some nasty stuff including flu viruses or other germs. Some workers may only use cold water when washing off their dishes, leaving germs and food particles that can turn into mini science experiments. Dishwashers heat water much higher than we typically use out of the tap to help sanitize dishes and other items. If you are going to provide office sponges, it might be good to throw them in a dishwasher every day or wet them and throw them in the microwave, replace them on a regular schedule (every few days) or simply not use them at all.
Suggest a BYOC policy or provide a label maker / ID tag system for shared cups
While it is nice when an employer provides dishware for employees to use at work, this is another potential source for germs to be shared. Promoting a “Bring Your Own Container” policy, buying everyone corporate-branded mugs/glasses and providing individual labels to tell them apart or simply maintaining a generic supply of dishware for everyone to use but also mark with their name can help control the spread of illness. You never know who might use the dishwasher vs. who might give a cup a quick rinse in cold water or brief swirl of a sponge before putting it back in a cabinet. And let’s not even go into the person who just leaves it in the sink for another to clean (that’s a topic for another blog).
No one likes to be sick and certainly (you hope) no one wants to get someone else sick, in spite of the old saying that “misery loves company.” So making sure you maintain a healthy workplace can also boost your efforts to create a happy workplace.