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How to Prevent the Spread of Flu in the Workplace

Flu prevention requires pro-activity. You need to keep your workplace safe and free from the flu.

You must take action and install policies to help prevent an outbreak in your office.

In the workplace, you have different people coming in and out at all times. This increases the risk of exposure for everyone working in the building.

Instead of waiting for an outbreak, take action and have preventive measures in place. They will protect your employees and reduce the risk of an outbreak in the workplace.

Why You Should Protect Your Workplace From the Flu

There are several pros to protecting your employees from the flu, for example:

  • It reduces the risk of individuals getting sick. The flu can lead to complicated illnesses or even death. You do not want this happening to your workforce.
  • Employees gain confidence in you. Showing that you care about their health boosts morale in the workplace.
  • It mitigates risks associated with a workplace flu outbreak. The more people get sick, the more they are likely to need time off. You can avoid absenteeism by taking preventive measures early.

What Measures Can You Take to Protect Your Workplace From the Flu?

1. Host a Flu Vaccine Clinic

Consider hosting a flu vaccine day at your workplace. This helps you get more people in your office vaccinated.

During the vaccine clinic, encourage conversations on how people can protect themselves.

You can ask the medical team to offer informational sessions to employees.

Make sure you collect flyers to share with employees who cannot attend the clinic.

How to Host a Successful Vaccine Clinic

While hosting the clinic, you need to focus on getting as many people as possible vaccinated. Here are a few things you can do to make it successful:

  • Schedule it on a slow day. This makes it possible for employees to step out of their work stations and get the vaccine.
  • Encourage employees to bring family members to the clinic. People tend to pay more attention when they can include their loved ones.
  • Get a few employees to support the clinic. They have a better chance of getting buy-in from their fellow colleagues.
  • Inform your managers and supervisors in advance. They will have enough time to plan their teams and create time for everyone to get their vaccine.
  • Create a visual tracker for everyone who gets vaccinated. It will serve as a visual reminder for people to visit the clinic. You can even add a goal to it and encourage people to reach this goal.

If you choose to host a flu vaccine clinic, spend time on the planning. You can find a lot of resources to help make it successful.

2. Introduce ‘Work from Home’ Days

Reduce the rate of infection by encouraging symptomatic employees to work from home.

One sick employee can easily infect others, creating a pandemic within the workplace.

You can encourage employees to work from home if:

  • They have family members who are currently battling the flu.
  • They have the flu and are still recovering.
  • They suspect they’ve had exposure to the flu but are still asymptomatic.
  • They have flu-like symptoms and are not sure if it is a cold or flu.

How to Create ‘Work From Home Days’ in Preparation for Flu Season

Every flu season presents a new risk of an outbreak in the workplace.

Instead of being reactive, start preparing your employees to work from home.

You can set in place policies where an employee can take a day off when necessary. This prepares other employees to step in and keep the office running. It will come in handy during flu season.

When setting a ‘work from home’ policy, you should:

  • Set rules for all employees. This will offer guidelines to prevent individuals from abusing the privilege.
  • Create a communication policy each employee must follow if they choose to work from home. This way, other employees stay updated and can offer support.
  • Create a productivity rule for the person working from home. They should update their colleagues on the tasks they’ll be working on from home. It helps everyone on the team avoid duplication of tasks.

Encouraging flexibility in the workplace will help you survive the flu season. It reduces the risk of an outbreak. It will also help you when there are other outbreaks requiring limited human contact.

3. Educate Your Employees on the Flu

Educating your employees about the flu encourages them to become more responsible. They can protect themselves from infection in the workplace or elsewhere.

You should find a health professional to help you with the educational sessions. They should focus on:

  • Helping employees differentiate between cold and flu symptoms.
  • Encouraging proper handwashing techniques.
  • Teaching the importance of the flu vaccine.
  • Dispelling any untruthful rumours or myths.

Credible Resources to Use for information

While sharing educational information in the office, refer to credible resources. Some resources you can use or share with employees include:

  • CDC website – It is a trusted resource with factual medical information on the flu. It offers a wealth of resources to help you protect yourself and your workplace.
  • The Health Promotion Agency – It is a government agency in New Zealand. They offer a lot of region-specific information to keep you healthy.
  • Ministry of Health – It is a trusted health resource. You can use it to learn about flu outbreaks in your area.
  • Fight Flu – It serves as a dedicated, government-approved resource centre for flu-related information.

4. Keep the Office Sanitised

Toilet seat sanitiser

Handy, accessible wall-mounted units Toilet Seat Sanitiser

Shared spaces and office facilities can encourage cross-contamination among employees.

Get into the habit of sanitising shared spaces on a regular basis. Some of the common items and spaces to start with include:

  • Tape dispenser and staplers – You can wipe them with a hand sanitiser every couple of hours. Clean them top to bottom as people tend to pick them up and move them around their hands.
  • Keyboards and Mouses – Keyboards and computer mouses collect a lot of dirt and germs throughout the day. Since people must touch them, make sure you sanitise them on a regular basis.
  • Workstations – Workstations contain 400 times more germs than an average toilet seat. Cleaning them is hygienic even after flu season. You should clean each workstation before someone new starts using it. You can rally the support of employees by encouraging them to wipe their desks before and after using them.

Sanitisation rules apply to other shared amenities such as:

  • Pens and pencils
  • Chairs
  • Fidget toys
  • Phones and headsets

Make sure you get alcohol-based sanitiser. It is more effective at fighting the flu virus and maintaining a healthy workplace.

5. Discourage Hand Contact

Discourage Hand Contact

Your hands play a significant role in spreading the flu.

A sick person coughs into their hand, gives you a handshake and you touch your face, immediately transferring germs.

If you can discourage handshaking, you can reduce the risk of spreading the flu in the workplace.

Alternatives to Handshaking

Since employees will want to connect, you can encourage alternative forms of greetings. Some good examples include:

President Obama bumps his hands to a young boy

Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Fist bumping – Here, only the back of the hands’ touch. It reduces the risk of spreading the infection if one of the employees is sick.

Barack Obama bumps elbows with women in the street

Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Elbow bump – If people really value contact, the elbow bump is a friendly alternative.

Foot shake

Image from: DW

Ankle bump – In extreme cases, people should keep their distance from each other. The ankle bump encourages a warm exchange at a safe distance.

The Master Plan Against a Flu Outbreak in the Workplace

The most effective way to prevent an outbreak is through thorough handwashing.

It may sound simple, but handwashing can prevent flu infections by up to 21 per cent.

Installing handwashing stations around your workplace will encourage people to wash their hands.

Instead of limiting sinks to the washroom, place them around your office. People are more likely to use them if they can see them.

If you are looking to instal handwashing stations, you can contact Alsco Nz. They will supply and install your handwashing stations, helping you fight the flu.

Photo: NIH

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