For those of us who magically made it through back to school, the holidays, and the first blast of winter weather without getting the flu, we’re probably confident that we’ll skate all the way through spring unscathed. But according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu season can last through May—so we’re not out of the woods yet.
Statistics show that five to 20 percent of the population will get the flu each year. If there are twenty people in your office, that means one to four employees are likely to get the flu—and as most of us know, the virus easily spreads through sneezing, touching, and sharing contaminated surfaces. An enclosed office space is a veritable “petri dish” for the flu virus!
Another somewhat surprising fact from the CDC: even if everyone in your office gets a flu shot, the vaccination is only 50 percent effective. So, protecting yourself and your office with the flu shot is only half the battle. Taking preventative measures like these can help increase the odds of remaining flu-free this year.
Clean work surfaces frequently. My grandmother used to wash cans and other items she brought home from the grocery store. I used to think she was a little obsessive until I read that the average office desk is crawling with more germs than a typical toilet seat. Gross! Fortunately, through the miracle of modern marketing, anti-bacterial wipes come in convenient canisters. Be sure to use them to wipe down your desktop daily.
Don’t forget community spaces. Again, the virus can spread through contaminated surfaces. Be sure to keep a canister of anti-bacterial wipes in the kitchen to attack the sink, refrigerator, coffee pot, microwave, and other shared appliances. And take a tip from my grandmother: wipe down the coffee can, sugar bowl, and carton of creamer, too.
Wash your hands frequently. Most adults know how important this is, especially those of us who interact with the public frequently. But it never hurts to remind everyone in your office how important this is, especially during flu season. Post a friendly reminder in the restroom and other shared spaces to keep it top of mind—and consider stocking the medicine cabinet with pocket-sized antibacterial gel to grab on the way to those off-site meetings with clients.
Avoid close contact when you’re sick. If it’s possible to work from home, you’ll do your coworkers and customers a favor by protecting them from your germs. Better yet, stay home and rest, which can be difficult if your paycheck depends on your daily production. But a day or two devoted to healing can potentially prevent a more serious illness, which could lay you up for longer.
Of course, other wisdom our grandmothers and mothers likely shared—eating right and getting enough sleep—will also keep our immune systems strong. This not only helps us avoid getting sick, but helps us heal faster if we do.