Get Ahead of the Flu in Your Office: Your Prevention Checklist
With the flu season well underway, it is important for Australian companies to be prepared for what’s coming.
Flu season not only raises health concerns for everyone involved, but it can also have a negative effect on any company’s bottom line.
In reality, a flu outbreak is a bitter enemy to your business.
So, when you create an action plan to protect your workplace during flu season, you’re actually saving your business from:
- High absenteeism rates
- Lost productivity and overtime costs
- Damage to your bottom line
Now, prepare for another fact about the flu in the workplace.
Absenteeism, solely due to influenza, costs Australian businesses more than $2 billion every year. Yet, South Australia has been hit with an early wave of flu this season, with 13,189 laboratory-confirmed cases already in 2019.
Here’s a chart that shows the early onset of flu in 2019 in comparison to earlier years.
But how to prevent spreading the flu in your office?
Good news is you can win if you stay ahead of the game. Take this flu prevention checklist and follow it through. It will help your team remain healthy and retain good performance levels throughout the flu season.
1. Instruct Your Team to Stay Home When Experiencing Flu Symptoms
It only takes one sick employee to potentially spread the flu virus throughout your office.
So, it’s critical to send any contagious employees home before they’ve incurred additional costs to your company by making other colleagues sick as well.
Another important thing to note too; flu symptoms are shown to decrease alertness in employees by as much as 20 to 40%, making errors far more likely.
With this in mind, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put a stay-at-home policy in place, wouldn’t you agree?
It’s generally recommended that a sick employee does not report back to work until 24 hours after the fever is gone. But it’s a good idea that you offer those workers an opportunity to work from home too.
If feeling well enough, they may want to make up for the lost time and catch up with their unfinished tasks.
To make sure workflow stays intact, consider the following practices:
- Cross-train employees so that in times of increased absences they can cover essential work.
- Instruct your team to maintain good communication so when one falls sick the other can pick up another’s tasks.
And last but not least, has your team been given clear instructions on how to call in sick with the flu? It’s very important to have a procedure for calling in sick so your work processes don’t suffer. Therefore, let your team know:
- To whom they’re supposed to report when they want to call in sick; HR or their immediate supervisor.
- How are they required to report to their managers; via e-mail or phone.
- The time frame within which they should report their absence.
2. Get Your Employees to Wash Their Hands
Although influenza can spread via the air that we breathe, we can pick it up by touching surfaces which have been contaminated with virus-containing droplets.
So it’s vital for you to develop a hand washing program to prevent the spread of the flu virus in your workspace. According to Dr. Rob Donofrio, Ph.D., a microbiologist at NSF International,
“Proper handwashing with soap and warm water is still, by far, the best way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.”
This can be a lifesaver for everyone. Imagine a winter season minus all the hassle that goes along with the flu. And it’s your turn as an employer to make an impact here.
Include regular hand washing in your office etiquette during cold and flu season. Next, instruct your team to practice washing hands when they’re most likely to pick up or spread an infection:
- After using public transport and handling money
- Before eating
- After coughing or sneezing in their hand
- After using the restroom
Chances are not all of your staff members are going to take your words of advice seriously. This is why you’re going to need to make it as clear as possible how good hand hygiene can impact their daily lives.
So how do you promote hand washing in your office? Here are some tips to include in your hand washing program. They may even help you convince the most hardened sceptics in your team to do an occasional hand wash.
- Install no-touch hand sanitisers in your common areas. This way you’re making hand hygiene almost effortless for your staff. A few steps to the hand sanitiser station and a mere 30-second rub will do the job.
- Forward the occasional office etiquette email to your team. Among other important office etiquette items, include one about good hand hygiene.
- Educate your team by putting up hand hygiene posters in toilet blocks. Get FREE high-resolution hand washing posters here.
- Hand out promotional materials that outline the benefits of hand washing. To get the message across, give real-life examples and get as personal as you can.
- Dedicate a block of your morning meetings to this important topic. Give valuable, short, to-the-point presentations. Make sure to load them with relevant stats and eye-opening conclusions.
- Stream short and fun hand washing videos to get your point across in an engaging fashion. Do a little YouTube search every now and then and surprise your team with hilarious but educational hand washing videos.
3. Encourage Cough and Sneeze Etiquette in Your Office
We hope what you’re about to hear won’t leave you open-mouthed (and you’ll see exactly why). We also hope it will change the way you protect yourself and your colleagues at the workplace.
Consider this. One sneeze propels infectious droplets as far as 8 metres in the air at a speed of more than 160 km/h.
Bet you didn’t know the last sneeze in your office hit you that fast?
This isn’t good news. How on earth are you going to escape this blast of germs in a cramped office space?
The best way to protect yourself and your co-workers is to adhere to good cough and sneeze etiquette. It’s nothing over the top, plus you’ll have a much higher chance of helping everyone escape gruesome bedridden days. So, instruct your team to:
- Cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing, or, alternatively
- Cough or sneeze into the inner part of their sleeve at the elbow.
- Dispose of the tissue after one use.
Provide reminders to your team to adhere to good flu prevention practices. Get a FREE batch of printable office etiquette posters for your office. Doing so should also help these practices become the new norm in your workplace community.
4. Give Your Team Access to Free Flu Shots
Next on our agenda, and very important to call attention to, is employee immunisation. For the simple reason that it’s one of the best ways to reduce your team’s chances of falling sick with the flu and spreading it to others.
Starting a free workplace vaccination program works to both you and your employees’ advantage. To name but a few:
- Your team gets free annual flu protection, saves money and also time for arranging a doctor’s visit and lining up to receive the shot at a health clinic.
- You get a healthier workforce and decreased absenteeism rates at your workplace.
And we have numbers to support this.
According to a study carried out by Walgreens every $1 invested in employee vaccinations paid for itself and brought in extra savings. More precisely, for every dollar medical costs decreased by $3.27 and absenteeism costs fell by $2.70.
Once you get the program rolling, make sure to:
- Mention it in your weekly meetings in the months during the flu season. This allows your team to reach consensus on the flu jab so they get vaccinated on time.
- Keep them posted on any new revaccinations. Let your team know if there’s a need to have another round of vaccine since protection starts to wear off after four months.
The first set of vaccines for 2019 flu season in Australia started in early April. Book your workplace flu vaccination online.
5. Soap it Up in the Kitchen
It shouldn’t be a surprise that some employees keep away from the office kitchen. It’s been hitting the headlines as the most common source of germs. And, as it turns out, people who have been on-guard about the kitchen, have every right to be.
If you leave your kitchen at germs’ mercy, your entire team is simply dodging the ‘flu bullet’ by chance. If they do at all.
An office kitchen is brimming with germs. So make sure you do your best to direct your cleaning efforts where they’re most needed. Let your team know about the common kitchen health hazards too.
So, keep an eye out for the following kitchen danger zones:
- Wash coffee mugs well with warm soap and water. A gross fact but 90% of office coffee mugs are found to contain illness-causing germs. Instruct your people not to share office cups.
- Give that coffee pot some attention. As one of the most used items in your office, your coffee pot should get the deserved attention back. Make sure it’s washed daily and don’t forget to clean the handle as well.
- Replace kitchen sponges before they make everyone sick. Your kitchen sponge attracts germs like nothing else. Most office sponges will have accumulated unsafe numbers of diarrhoea-causing germs within 3 weeks. So, make sure to replace the sponge every two weeks and perform a daily clean by putting it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
6. Keep Commonly Touched Office Surfaces Clean
How clean do you imagine an average office desk is? What do you estimate is the bacteria count?
Get this. An average desk has been found to harbour 400 times more germs than an average toilet seat. Close to your guesstimate?
Either way, you’ll want to give some TLC to commonly touched office surfaces before germs in your workplace go through the roof.
And in reality, germ-counts will skyrocket unless you intervene. The high number and frequency of people in offices makes them a perfect breeding ground for microbes. But how to go about this issue? It’s super-simple. Experts advise you do targeted cleaning.
- Go for the highest risk surfaces: door handles, sink taps, photocopiers, keyboards and smartphones.
- Get your maintenance crew to wipe these surfaces daily.
- Next, inform your team on how critical it is to keep their workstation clean and remind them to chip in too.
Trust us, when it comes to your workplace health, acting like a germaphobe, will be worth the trouble. Keeping office surfaces clean is found to reduce the probability of catching the flu or common cold by a whopping 80%.
7. Tell Your Team to Limit Mutual Interactions During a Flu Outbreak
Australia is now well into the flu season. Which is why you need a well-thought-out plan. Or else the infectious disease will unabashedly gnaw at your workforce.
Give your team a heads-up to avoid unnecessary contact with others until the flu has fizzled out and it’s all clear.
This applies even more if the person is found to be sneezing, coughing and looking sick. The infected person can spread the virus to people within a 2-metre radius.
A simple reminder to your team will go a long way in helping you prevent the spread of the dreadful flu at your office. Below are a few office etiquette tips for your team to bear in mind during a flu epidemic. Instruct your team to:
- Limit shaking hands with their co-workers, politely excusing themselves if the other party has forgotten about this being a part of the company flu etiquette.
- Avoid engaging in casual conversations too much.
- Stay clear from any colleague that has begun to show signs of flu symptoms.
- Keep touching of high-risk surfaces to a minimum. If you do touch them, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water.
8. Use Essential Oils to Fend Off Viruses
Essential oils are becoming increasingly popular nowadays as they are used as part of aromatherapy and mindfulness practices. That aside, a number of scientific studies are revealing their antiviral properties.
Inhaling certain essential oil vapours are shown to have the ability to deactivate influenza viruses and lower their numbers in confined areas.
So, it’s a good idea for companies to leverage the power of essential oils to help fight flu virus among employees.
To illustrate, Eucalyptus, Bergamot and Tea tree oils can help prevent and alleviate flu symptoms. And interestingly, some of these oils have the ability to do so after only 5 to 10 minutes of exposure.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to venture out on a wild plant hunt. There are companies that specialise in bringing nature’s benefits directly to your office quarters.
Also, knowing that a scented environment influences consumers’ perception of a company makes essential oils even more attractive for companies to embrace.
9. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Encourage your people to lead a healthier lifestyle. This can improve their overall health making them much more resilient to flu and cold viruses.
Also, make sure you approach each and every employee with an individual, personalised and attainable health program. Look beyond just a healthy diet and an exercise regimen. Tackle issues such as sleep quality and possible overexertion in your employees.
These are all factors that will determine to what extent your team members will be susceptible to bacterial and viral diseases.
Reach out to your employees. Give out constant reminders of how vital it is for them to look after their health.
- Forward regular flu season memos to employees during colder months.
- Put up educational flu prevention posters to serve as an immediate inspiration for your team.
- Get flu shot reminder emails circulating when it’s time for a flu jab.
Take Steps Towards a Healthier Workplace
Want to fend off the super-contagious flu virus?
Make use of our workplace flu prevention tips and kickstart a flu prevention program now.
Free your workplace from the flu virus and your employees will be able to go about their duties without interruption. Outsource your hygiene services and you’ll be free to focus on more important matters.
Let Fresh & Clean take care of your workplace hygiene in a professional way.
Our range of no-touch, sustainable hand washing and drying products will help protect your workplace during flu season. But there’s more. We extend our services to surface sanitising, washroom hygiene, scenting and more.
Contact our friendly customer service representatives now and they’ll let you in on how you can benefit from our business in the most comprehensive way.