With adults catching an average of 2-3 colds a year, and the typical cold lasting for at least one or two weeks at a minimum, you should be doing your best to prevent them from spreading in your workplace to keep your staff as healthy as possible.
This is especially vital in winter, as the chillier weather lowers our immune systems and makes us more vulnerable to infection. As a result, the common cold and the flu (which causes similar symptoms to a cold, though these can last a lot longer and are often more severe) are particularly rife during this time of the year.
Every winter, it’s the same story; someone starts sneezing in the office and before you know it, half of your employees are unwell. This not only lowers staff morale (no one wants to be sick over Christmas), but as an employer, you also don’t want to lower productivity levels due to a large amount of sick days being taken by your staff. In fact, according to statistics from 2015, sickness absence costs an employer around £16 billion each year, with an average of 6.5 days being lost per employee.
To prevent colds and flu from spreading in the workplace, check out our top tips for keeping your staff and workplace healthy in winter…
Encourage employees to wash their hands
We all know how colds and the flu are spread; someone coughs or sneezes without their mouth being covered, the infection-causing germs end up sitting on any nearby surfaces, and these germs have the chance to infect anyone else who touches said surface within the next two hours or more. So, it might seem like an obvious one, but encouraging your employees to wash their hands regularly is one of the best ways to remove these germs and prevent colds from spreading in the workplace.
As well as providing hand sanitisers in your offices and washrooms, you should make sure everyone is aware of the most effective way to wash their hands with water by hanging up suitable signage in the workplace. Remember; you need to use both soap and water, and you should rub your hands together for at least 15-20 seconds.
Clean your office equipment
Because germs that cause colds and the flu can live on surfaces for at least two hours, it’s also vital to regularly clean anything your employees come into contact with on a daily basis. This applies to office equipment, such as computer monitors, keyboards, and phones, as well as desks, chairs, door handles, light switches, microwaves, kettles, and any other surfaces that are frequently touched.
The communication experts at Telco Solutions gave us the following eye-opening fact, “with an average office worker’s desktop surface, computer equipment and telephone being shown to harbour more bacteria than a toilet seat in your washroom, there’s no harm in keeping them as clean as possible at the end of the day”. To help keep your workplace healthy in winter, you should wipe any surfaces down each day with an alcohol-based sanitiser.
Bring plants into the office
There are many health benefits of office plants. Not only do they effectively reduce mold, bacteria and dust levels, but they lower CO2 and remove everyday toxins from the air (which is emitted by a range of materials found in the workplace, such as facial tissues, paper bags, paper towels and paint, as well as printing inks and electrical office equipment).
Exposure to high levels of these can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat, and general aches and pains. As all of these symptoms can also be a result of a cold or the flu, we’d recommend adding some greenery to your office to prevent them from being made worst by exposure to mold, dust, and unavoidable everyday toxins.+
Help keep your workforce fit and healthy
Finally, you should also be encouraging your staff to get fit and eat a healthier diet if you want to stop the spread of colds and the flu in the workplace in winter. This is because according to research, those who exercise regularly are less likely to be infected with cold viruses; in fact, they reduce their chances of getting ill by 50%. Additionally, eating plenty of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, apples, kiwi, broccoli, and spinach will help to boost your immune system. Invest in well-being schemes, as utilised by Morgan Lovell with great success in staff morale and motivation.
To get your workplace up and moving, you can arrange lunchtime activities for your employees to take part in, such as group gym sessions, a run or jog around a local park, or even football, catch, and Frisbee games. You should also encourage your workforce to keep hydrated by installing a watercooler, and make sure there are no excuses to not eat healthily by having a regularly topped-up fruit bowl.
With healthy workers making a happy workplace, there’s no reason not to do your best to keep your staff healthy in winter! To find out more about improving their health and well-being with real and artificial office plants, contact PHS Greenleaf today.