By Molly Kelley
You know that sinking feeling. It starts a little after a coworker arrives at your desk with a wadded Kleenex in hand, hacks once or twice and says, “Ere’s dat repord you wanned” while handing you document loaded with viruses. As you accept the report your eyes begin to water, your nose twitch, and your throat scratch. Within an hour you’re feeling feverish and woozy. The next day you have a full blown cold, if you are lucky, flu if you aren’t so lucky.
Email and the phone can only protect us from a small fraction of the viruses that have been circulating in the workplace during what has already been a particularly nasty cold and flu season. Health professionals and employers alike are urging employees to get their flu shots and stay home when sick. Aside from hand-washing and staying home, what measures can we take to keep ourselves healthy in the workplace?
Make sure shared equipment is wiped down with sanitizer frequently. Aside from the obvious door handles, light switches and the like, most businesses have employees sharing fax, copier and office equipment. This poses a real problem when employees are sharing a workspace, particularly when sharing a phone or computer. The same preventative measures should be taken with the company water cooler and coffee machine.
After last year’s heightened concern over H1N1, many employers are hosting flu shot clinics and posting hand sanitizer throughout their workplace. Equally important is to have a clearly defined and well communicated sick policy that defines symptoms that should prompt an employee to stay home (fever being the easiest to recognize). The Center for Disease Control posts employer resources aimed at aiding employers in educating their employees on the need to stay home when sick.
A generous sick, vacation or PTO policy goes a long way toward keeping everyone healthy during cold and flu season. A team first attitude companywide also enables employers to encourage their employees to pitch in and help each other when a coworker is out sick, making it that much less likely you’ll be on the receiving end of that germ laden report!