Nobody enjoys being sick—the sniffling nose, headache, cough, sore throat, sensitive sinuses. It is enough to grind any productive staff member to a halt. However, with winter here, the change in the air means many workplaces will feel the effects of the cold and flu season. For many employers, this means the spread of infections by staff, unplanned sick leave and therefore lost productivity.
Workplace infection costs companies billions of dollars every year. 1
Luckily, the risk of catching a bug at work can be reduced by following a few simple tips. At St John Ambulance (QLD), we have put together a list of our top 4 tips you and your team can practise to help avoid getting sick.
1. Encourage hand washing
Hand washing is the single most important measure in preventing the spread of infection. People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realising it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth making your staff sick.
Washing hands regularly (and properly) with soap and water after touching your nose or mouth, before handling food and after using bathroom can help prevent infections in the workplace.
Provide signage in bathroom promoting the correct way to wash your hands and prevent infections.
2. Keep it clean
Did you know your desk is the dirtiest area in your workplace? That’s right. Your phone is the filthiest item on your desk, with your keypad a close second. Touching and breathing close to the headset and keys all day creates a breeding ground for germs.
Encourage staff to their clean their workspace, phone and keyboard throughout the day. A cleanser that is at least 70% alcohol is ideal to ensure the space is disinfected.
3. Personal hygiene
Good hygiene can say a lot about you and your team. However in the cold and flu season, it can also be a barrier to infections.
- Remember to a cough or sneeze into a tissue or your inner elbow, covering your nose and mouth.
- Use and dispose of tissues appropriately.
- Using an alcohol-based hand rub or gel regularly.
- Wash hands regularly.
Include tissues and hand sanitisers in all work areas including desks, and in strategic places throughout the office including reception, meeting rooms, lunch rooms to encourage use.
4. Let staff go home (this one is for the managers)
Encourage staff to go home and rest if they are unwell. Your staff may say ‘they have too much work to do’ or ‘they’ll be fine’ however it is important to cut the infection cycle before it spreads to the rest of the team, including you. Remember it is more cost effective to send one person home today, then three people for tomorrow.
While you cannot be with your staff 24/7 to make sure they are cleaning their desks, washing their hand, it is important to promote a healthy workplace practices to prevent workplace infection. Why not review these tips and ask yourself how your team can help avoid the flu this winter.
Source: Survey by Direct Health (www.dhs.net.au)