It’s challenging to keep yourself from getting sick at the office when your co-workers are coughing and sneezing right next to you or worse, on you. Though you might feel inclined to put on a hazmat suit, you don’t need to go quite that far. A little knowledge and prevention will do the trick help you avoid cold and flu this winter.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has been coughing or sneezing. It’s interesting to note that viruses such as rhinovirus (the common cold) or influenza virus (flu) can travel further when the weather is cold and dry.
- Avoid sharing pens, remotes, phones, and keyboards with anyone who isn’t feeling well. Cold and flu viruses can remain infectious for up to three days on surfaces like desks, doorknobs, and light switches. After touching these surfaces, avoid touching your face or eyes and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible. After washing your hands, dry them with a paper towel and turn the tap off using the paper towel. Disinfect surfaces with natural cleaners like diluted essential oils. When you grasp door handles or light switches, use your sleeve or a paper towel to reduce contact.
- When shaking hands with people, make a mental note not to touch your face or eyes until after you’ve washed your hands. If it’s a sick co-worker, try a fist bump – it transmits about 1/10th the microbes as shaking hands.
- Rather stay home if you come down with a cold or flu. It’s not just selfish to go to work sick; it might be dangerous. People with sensitive immune systems, like pregnant women, the elderly, and children, are more prone to severe complications from the flu. It’s recommended to stay home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever. For colds, most people take off a day or two. One study found that the worse the cold symptoms were, the less productive respondents were. The best way to recover from the cold or flu is to rest, hydrate, and let your body heal.
- Educate co-workers in a civil, discrete way by letting them know that it’s our responsibility to cover our mouth and nose, so they don’t spread their illness to other people. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put the used tissue in the bin. If no tissue is available, you can cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. Try not to cough or sneeze into your hands, and make sure you clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and warm water to wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Maintaining your health at work requires a little more preparation and planning during winter, but it’s not difficult. To avoid cold and flu, stay away from anyone not feeling well, avoid shaking hands, and wash your hands to protect yourself from catching any bugs. Bring healthy, warming foods you’ll enjoy eating, reduce your caffeine consumption, and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep.