What You Can Do Now to Help Prevent Sickness Among Employees This Coming Cold and Flu Season

It is that time of year again: sniffles, warm sweaters and chicken noodle soup become as common as short sleeves, flip-flops and sunglasses. Now that the weather is growing colder, sickness knows no bounds. That doesn’t mean your employees must be a part of that population, though. Read on to find out how you can take measures to increase their chances of avoiding both viruses.

Seven Actions to Take Against Cold and Flu Season:

1. It’s OK to Take a Sick Day: Yes, you heard us — stay home! Taking a sick day might not be preferable, but it is necessary. One of the main culprits for spreading sickness within the workplace is a sick employee who decides to come to work. A sick employee spreading their germs about will increase the chances of other employees contracting the illness. The last thing your company needs is for half the office to be ill.

2. Get Those Z’s: New research indicates that if a person receives less than six hours of sleep per night, they are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who get seven or more hours each night. So maybe hitting that snooze button for that extra hour isn’t such a bad idea, huh?

  • Encourage employees to get enough sleep by starting a sleep challenge. Have them log their hours each week, and reward the person getting seven to eight hours on average with a wellness related prize.

3. You’ve Heard It Before: Don’t Touch Your Face: Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose — we mean it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. Your eyes and nose are two paths for the virus to gain a free VIP pass inside your body.

  • Post signs around your office reminding your employees not to touch their face, ever, and especially during cold and flu season.
  • Or, send flu prevention reminder emails periodically throughout cold and flu season.

4. Get Vaccinated: Health experts say getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the flu. The CDC recommends:

  • A yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccines become available, if possible by October, to ensure as many people as possible are protected. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
  • One way to ensure that everybody who wants a flu shot gets one by having a clinician come directly to your worksite to administer the vaccine.

5. Scrub-a-Dub-Dub: Washing one’s hands is a sure fire way to aid in scrubbing off germs. So do it. Make sure to get under your nails (ladies) in order to get all the gunk off. Make sure you are using warm water, soap and scrubbing for at least 15 seconds while washing. Post a reminder sign in the bathrooms at your worksite to ensure employees do not forget how important washing their hands is for flu prevention.

  • Have alcohol based hand sanitizer available for your employees’ use.

6. Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle: One of the biggest flu prevention actions is something that can be done year-round — practicing healthy habits every day. Drinking enough water, managing stress, exercising regularly, sleeping enough and eating a balanced diet are all factors that play into keeping immune systems healthy. If a person is already healthy, they are at a lesser risk for contracting the flu than a person who does not already lead a healthy lifestyle.

  • Set fresh fruit and sliced vegetables out for the taking in your lunch room.
  • Have vitamin C drinks readily available for your employees.
  • Start a water drinking challenge by having employees log how many ounces of water they drink per day.

7. Cover the Cough (or Sneeze): A quick way to inject the harmful viruses into the air is to sneeze or cough without covering your mouth. So tap into your inner football player and block it! The CDC says the following: ‘cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. (Most experts believe flu viruses spread mainly by droplets created when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk).’