7 Steps to Reduce Flu Risk in the Workplace

When one employee in the office gets the flu, it seems like everyone does. Since it’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. get the flu each year, it is essential that you take the necessary steps to reduce the risk at work. The following tips help keep those with the flu away from the rest of the staff, and encourage employee daily habits to prevent the flu.

1)  Keep ill workers at home. Let your employees know that if they have the flu, they should stay at home. The flu is extremely contagious. It can spread rapidly to other employees, causing half or more of your staff to be ill at the same time. Encourage sick workers to stay home, at least until their fever breaks, which is generally a sign they are no longer contagious.

2)  Disinfect work surfaces. Always keep your work surfaces clean and disinfected. Make it a habit to have the work surfaces cleaned daily with a disinfectant. This helps keep eliminate germs, and prevents the flu from spreading. Disinfect all doorknobs, countertops in the kitchen and bathroom, phones, keyboards, and any other surfaces used by most employees.

3)  Make tissues and sanitizers available. Employees are more willing to use a tissue or hand sanitizer when it is readily available. Provide plenty of tissue boxes to all employees, placing them in all common areas. Have a bottle of hand sanitizer near every common area, such as in the break room and where customers are greeted.

4)  Encourage healthy workers. One good way to avoid the flu year-round is by encouraging healthy habits. Start a wellness program that encourages employees to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, reduce their emotional stress, quit smoking, and stay hydrated with water and other hydrating liquids.

5)  Eliminating transmission. The flu is often spread throughout the workplace because of hand-to-face contact transmission. To reduce this, always educate your employees on how quickly it can be spread, encouraging the use of hand sanitizer, washing their hands frequently throughout the day, and not sharing items when it isn’t necessary. Simply using a work coworker’s stapler can cause the flu to spread.

6)  Promote the flu vaccine. Find a local health center that will provide the flu vaccination to employees for free. You can either have employees sent to a pharmacy or medical center to get their flu shot, or even have a mobile flu vaccination van come to your work site. This allows all employees to get the vaccine, if they are interested in it.

7)  Encourage healthy etiquette.  Most employees will cover their mouth if they cough or sneeze and wash their hands after using the restroom, but it helps to provide your workers with reminders. Place a hand washing sign on the door or walls of every bathroom, as well as near other sinks in the building, such as in the break room. If you notice anyone spreading germs, give them a gentle reminder of the office rules and proper etiquette to keep the flu from spreading.

If you follow these tips and encourage good etiquette, the flu vaccine, and sick employees to stay at home, you can help to keep the flu from spreading to the rest of the staff.