We’ve all been in a situation where we’re feeling a little run down, maybe we have what appears to be an inconsequential cough, but we go to work anyway.
It might seem like no big deal to go to work when you aren’t feeling 100 percent, but did you know that the typical American office is a breeding ground for influenza pathogens?
Anywhere between 291,000 and 646,000 individuals worldwide die from seasonal flu-related illnesses each year according to a 2017 joint study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various global partners.
Sure, we shy away from handshakes when a client appears to be under the weather, or we back away from a sneezing coworker, but when it comes to the spread of illness most offices aren’t doing nearly enough.
CBT Nuggets, an Oregon-based IT learning company, swabbed many of the working surfaces in its office and had those samples tested for bacteria. The company found that there were more than 3.5 million colony-forming units per square inch (CFUs) of a typical office keyboard. Alternatively, the office toilet seat only had 172 CFUs.
The study didn’t end there. If you are reading this on your phone, the device in your palm has approximately 1.6 million CFUs, and if you’re reading this on your computer you’re being exposed to the more than 1.3 million CFUs on your mouse — and you thought only rats carried the plague.
So, what is an employer to do when faced with the possibility of losing half her staff to the flu? We’ve got some tips for keeping those nasty germs out of the office so your employees will stay in the office.
- Doorknobs and handles are hotspots for germs so use a paper towel to turn the faucet on and off and to open the bathroom door.
- Elevator buttons also are a hotbed of germ activity so avoid touching the button. Instead use a tissue or hit the button with your elbow.
- Avoid using another person’s keyboard, mouse, or phone if at all possible.
- Set up hand sanitizing stations around the office. The best places are likely going to be locations where employees eat.
- Equip each employee with a container of sanitizing wipes and make sure they are responsible for wiping down their own areas often.
- Individuals infected with the flu are contagious for the first five days, even before symptoms develop, so as soon as you start feeling off, stay home.
- Above all, prevention is the key to avoiding the flu. Get a shot as early as possible, October is preferable. Check with local pharmacies like RiteAid and Walgreens. Many will travel to an office and do shots for an entire staff depending on the company’s health plan.