Colds and flu both arise from viruses rather than bacteria, and can spread very quickly through the office, especially during the winter. This is because these viruses thrive in cooler and drier conditions, and because people tend to spend more time inside during cold weather.
While colds and flu are often not considered to be serious illnesses, they can cause substantial loss of productivity in a workplace – especially if a lot of workers come down with them at once!
How these viruses are spread
Colds and flu tend to be more infectious in the early stages – often before symptoms make an appearance. Flu can be infectious for up to seven days and colds for two to three days. They can spread when infected people sneeze or cough near others or shake hands without first washing their own hands, especially if they have recently blown their nose or coughed into them. People can also become infected when they touch contaminated surfaces, and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes.
There are a number of strategies you can employ to help reduce the spread of these illnesses in the office:
- Insist that employees stay home if they are sick.
- Provide supplies of tissues and wipes, as well as soap and paper towel for hand washing and drying. If soap and water isn’t readily available, an alcohol-based hand gel is a good alternative. If infections are running high, you might want to provide a hand-sanitising product for visitors as well.
- Consider providing free flu vaccinations for your workers during autumn.
- Encourage the following among staff:
- Thorough hand washing and drying, especially after nose-blowing, coughing or sneezing.
- Use of tissues to cover mouth / nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Disposal of tissues immediately after use.
- Regular cleaning of desks and keyboards – especially if desks and computers are shared.
- Healthy diet, exercise and stress management to build immunity.
It’s also important to provide a clean and healthy environment and to take steps to ensure staff are not overworked or highly stressed, as these factors can reduce immunity as well.
Regular office cleaning is important
Your office should be cleaned on a regular basis by professional office cleaning services. This should include cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces including desks, as well as restrooms, kitchens, and door handles. A clean and hygienic environment is important to help reduce the spread of colds and flu, and also helps office workers to feel happier and healthier at work.