'Tis the Season....For Colds & Flus
‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, merriment and celebration, but it is also flu and cold season. When a cold or flu gets a foothold in your facility, it can really dampen holiday spirits. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this time of year has much higher rates of influenza and other respiratory illness than any other. Not only is the flu’s intensity much worse than any other time, the CDC tells us that “between December and peaking in January and February we expect to see the highest rate of respiratory illness and positive tests for respiratory influenza.”
The cold and flu season is a long one and can have a major impact on workplaces throughout the country. Federal and State governments spend a large amount of time and money trying to minimize the impact of colds, flus and other communicable illnesses, but what can YOU do to protect yourself and your employees to minimize the impact of the cold and flu seasons on your bottom line and staff? Absenteeism is a large problem on its own, so it can be especially damaging when it is exacerbated by illness. What steps should you be taking to mitigate the effects of colds and flus in your workplace and what can you do yourself to protect yourself and your employees?
Enlist Your Office Cleaning Company to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness in the Workplace
When your facility is getting cleaned, especially during cold and flu season, it cannot simply be to make it look nice. Your office cleaning company isn’t very effective if your office looks good but is teeming with disease causing germs. Your cleaning company needs to actively invest in making sure your facility is properly sanitized to protect you and your employees from the various colds and flus that makes their rounds this time of year. Cleaning for health has measurable, positive outcomes in your facility that can affect the morale, productivity and attrition rates of your staff. Cleaning for health has very specific meanings with methods and procedures attached to it. So, what kinds of things do commercial cleaning companies do when they clean for health?
- Cleaners observe dwell times and other relevant product instructions so that cleaning products work as intended to eradicate disease causing germs.
- They use a color-coded rag system that helps minimize cross-contamination between different cleaning sites.
- Cleaners are familiar with different areas of your facility and apply the correct cleaning method to each area.
- Cleaners understand the importance of touch points and hotspots and how to properly clean them to reduce the risk of illness around the workspace.
But what are touch points and how does a color-coded rag system help reduce the spread of disease? First, touch points are areas around the office that are touched more often than any other. Some examples might be: light switches, work phones, computer mice, and door handles. Because of the high traffic they receive, they store exponentially more bacteria and other pathogens than other surfaces and are responsible for the majority of illness around the office. Understanding which objects are touch points and how to clean them is critical to employee health. Second, the color-coded cleaning cloth system is as simple as it sounds. Your cleaning staff has a number of different colored rags that are designated for specific areas around the office so that the rag used on the toilet seat isn’t used on the conference room table. While not the only methods your commercial cleaning company should be using to protect your health, they are both good starting points for keeping you and your employees healthy during the cold and flu season.
What Definitely NOT to Do When You’re Sick
Many of us feel that missing a day of work is unthinkable, especially with large workloads and important deadlines to meet. But coming to work sick is a pointless endeavor. Not only are you going to be unproductive and get little work done, you are risking getting your peers sick and further reducing productivity in the office. No one will think that you are tough or strong willed when you come to the office sick, when your feeling sick, stay home and rest so that when you come back your ready to work.
What You CAN Do to Prevent Illness in the Workplace
“Make sure to wash your hands” is a phrase most of our mothers harangued us about constantly, but it isn’t bad advice at all. What's unfortunate is the number of adults that never learned how and when to wash their hands properly. Your hands are the perfect carrier for all manner of bacteria and other pathogens that make people sick. So, it is important to wash them before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching high traffic objects. Effective hand washing should be your first line of defense against workplace illness and should be done by all employees throughout the day. Another important step to keeping you and your staff healthy is coughing or sneezing into your arm instead of your hand. While you shouldn’t be at work if your coughing or sneezing with any degree of frequency, this simple change in habit can help protect others from illness.
Knowing that hand to hand contact is such an easy way to spread illness, another common sense thing to do is keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth at all costs. It is impossible to make sure one's hands are clean all the time and putting them near your mucous membranes is the perfect opportunity for bacteria to invade your body. Finally, when a sink and soap aren’t available, make sure that you have some hand sanitizer on hand (no pun intended). Hand sanitizer solutions with a least 60% alcohol content are effective at removing all manner of bacteria from your hands and can help keep you clean when you can’t wash your hands. Keeping in mind these simple tips about your hands can help spare you and your co-workers illness during the peak of flu season.
When in Doubt, Vaccine it Out
Another basic step you can take to help keep yourself healthy during the cold and flu season is the flu vaccine. While it isn’t and never has been a sure fire way to completely protect yourself from the flu, it has been shown to be upwards of 90% effective. It's a cheap, safe way to protect yourself against the season so it might be a good idea to ask your doctor if the flu shot might be right for you. Getting the flu shot can help protect you from the most prevalent strains of influenza as well reduce your chances of getting your co-workers sick.