When flu season comes around, it’s par for the course that you might lose out on a few members of staff each month as they take time off to recover from the common cold or flu. Whilst, within reason, this can’t be helped, there are several things that you can do to raise awareness around how to reduce the risk of catching a cold or how to prevent the flu.
Figures for 2017 demonstrate that sickness absence fell to the lowest rate on record after following a downward trend since records begin in 1993. More than a quarter of these sick days can be attributed to minor illnesses such as cold and flu.
These statistics show that more sick days are taken in the public sector (4.1 days) than in the private sector (3.1 days) – this could be because private-sector workers are less likely to have paid sick leave. Perhaps unsurprisingly, public sector health workers have the highest rates of sickness absenteeism, as they are working at a high risk of exposure.
In order to protect the health of your workers as well as running an efficient and purposeful workplace, there are several things that you can do to ensure cold and flu prevention.
1. Encourage flu vaccinations
For workers who spend a lot of time in public places, the flu vaccination is a great way to prevent the flu. It could be especially important for those working in healthcare, education, or public transport, as the volume of people (and their germs) that workers are exposed to leaves them at high risk of illness.
Encouraging workers to get flu vaccinations by having educational materials in the workplace and a flexible, relaxed approach to absences for staff receiving the vaccine can go a long way in increasing resistance in your workplace.
2. Encourage workers to stay at home if they’re unwell
Employees are entitled to sick days, but for workers in the private sector or on part-time contracts, these might not be paid. However, encouraging your workers to take sick days when they are unwell is a good idea – both for your staff and for your business.
Workers with paid sick days are more likely to stay home from work when they’re unwell, preventing the spread of viruses. However, this needs to be backed up with HR policy – if your staff members don’t already benefit from paid sick leave, consider introducing it. The additional cost of more staff members catching illnesses from workers who should have stayed at home could end up being more than paying the absent employee in the first place.
3. Raise awareness on the symptoms of flu
A simple graphic poster installed in areas like the staff common room, kitchen or toilets will help to raise awareness of cold and flu symptoms. Staff members will know that if they have aching limbs, a sore throat, headache or blocked sinuses, it is likely that the flu is on the way. Some people prefer to take a day off work ahead of becoming ill to rest, and this means that often symptoms won’t fully develop.
4. Keep the workplace clean and tidy
Keeping a clean and tidy workplace is crucial to cold prevention. In an office environment, make sure that staff are aware of where antibacterial cleaning products are so that they can wipe down keyboards, mice and desk surfaces at the end of each day.
Start off by using the Premiere Workstation RTU Cleaner in order to clean computer screens, keyboards and the plastic surrounds of your computer. This will help to reduce dust build-up and is quick drying.
Next, the Selden Spray & Wipe Hard Surface Cleaner is proven to kill germs like E.coli and MRSA, as its advanced quaternary biocide sanitises surfaces as it goes. It even leaves a pleasant smell behind – so you know that your desk space is clean and ready for a new day.
5. Encourage careful personal and hand hygiene
One of the most important things to bear in mind whilst trying to stop the spread of germs is to maintain excellent hand hygiene whilst in the workplace. If you don’t already, consider installing hand sanitiser dispensers at the end of each bank of desks. In order to contain germs, it’s important to sneeze into a tissue, then put it in a bin that has a lid, and wash your hands. Alternatively, these Purell Advanced Hand Rub dispenser bottles are ideal for keeping on desks alongside disposable tissues.