Seasonal flu slows productivity: seven tips to keep your office healthy

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Getting the flu is probably not accounted for in your project schedule. Yet, each year, more than 100 million workdays, or the equivalent of over $7 billion per year in productivity, are lost because of the flu.

Flu activity typically peaks between December and February, so now is a critical time to take a few preventive measures in the workplace and help keep the entire team healthy and more productive.

Each employee is ultimately responsible for their own health, but a few helpful reminders around the office never hurt either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created ready-to-use print materials for businesses to spread the word about flu prevention.

In addition, consider these seven simple tips to help you, and those around you, stay healthy this flu season:

  1. Get vaccinated

One of the best ways to prevent the flu is to get your flu vaccine. It’s best practice to schedule an appointment for a flu shot as soon as it becomes available and before hitting the peak of flu season. However, if you have not yet received a vaccine for the current flu season, it’s better late than never.

  1. Maintain distance

If a co-worker is coughing or sneezing, has previously been out sick or is showing flu-like symptoms, keep your distance from them. Typically, adults are contagious one day before they develop flu symptoms and up to a week after becoming sick. Don’t forget that this applies to physical objects, too. You might want to think twice about using someone else’s stapler, scissors or borrowing a pen during flu season.

  1. Cover your mouth and nose

The flu virus generally is spread by mucus from person to person. If you feel like you need to cough or sneeze, use the inside of your elbow to avoid spreading germs to your hands, which you will more likely use to touch the doorknob, coffee pot, water cooler and other shared office supplies.

  1. Disinfect your office

Wipe down your desk, keyboard/laptop, mouse, phone and even your stapler with disinfectant wipes to avoid the spread of germs. And what’s the bonus of having a clean desk? You may just be more productive. Several studies show that clutter undermines productivity and motivation. A clean desk can help your mind focus.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently

Wash your hands often and with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. It’s a good idea to make hand sanitizer readily available in common workspaces such as meeting rooms, lunch areas or break rooms. Also, avoid touching your eyes or mouth if you haven’t recently washed your hands.

  1. Practice other healthy habits

One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong is by practicing healthy habits all year, such as drinking plenty of water, eating healthy and getting enough sleep each night.

 

  1. Use your sick days

Finally, if you’re experiencing a fever, headache, sore throat or other flu-like symptoms, use your sick days. Regardless of the size of the project, your co-workers will appreciate you being conscious of their well-being, keeping your germs out of the office. Plus, you’ll have time to relax and focus on getting yourself feeling better fast.

 

Follow these seven tips to help you fight the flu at work this season — and keep productivity at its best.

Sara Linder, NBC-HWC, is a health coach in the wellness department at Priority Health. She is a certified health education specialist and a national board-certified health and wellness coach with a Bachelor of Health Promotion and a Master of Public Health.

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