How to Prevent the Cold and Flu in Your Workplace

The more employees you have, the greater likelihood you have of the cold and flu.

It happens. And it even happens when you feel like you have strong workplace policy in effect.

So what’s the trick?

Here’s our take:

1. Handwashing

The number one thing your employees can do is wash their hands. By far. Nothing else even comes close.

For example, the CDC found that in 2011, 75,000 hospital patients died due to a hospital-acquired infection (HAI). And they also found that healthcare professionals, of all professions, washed their hands less than half the times they should.

Sounds unbelievable. But it’s absolutely no joke.

The CDC recommends washing your hands:

  • Before, during, and after prepping food
  • Before and after caring for someone sick at home
  • After using the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching garbage

And here’s their recommended handwashing procedure:

  1. Wet your hands with warm or cold water
  2. Lather the backs of your hands, under your fingernails, and between your fingers with soap
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice to time)
  4. Rinse your hands under clean water
  5. Dry with a towel or air dryer
  6. Use hand sanitizer only if you can’t use soap or water

2. Encourage Employees to Stay Home & Rest When Sick

Most workplaces put the opposite pressure on employees through formal and informal policy. Companies require notes from doctors proving employees are sick, which gives the impression the company doesn’t trust its employees.

Bosses and coworkers put pressure on by getting irritated, annoyed, or skeptical when employees get sick.

Your workplace needs to adopt the other attitude. One that shows trust in your employees and concern for their health.

And if you don’t trust your employees period, it’s time for you to work on that attitude (or get new employees).

3. Have Policy in Place for Cleaning Commonly Touched Areas of Your Office

This one’s difficult because it’s easy to forget or overlook areas that many employees touch. But it’s simple enough to do.

Just go to any area of your office and make a list of all things multiple employees touch in a day. For example:

  • Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Door knobs
  • Coffee pot handles
  • Refrigerator handles
  • Elevator buttons
  • Countertops

…And so on. You get the point.

Now of course you have a cleaning service who takes care of cleaning these things at the end of the day. However, what do you do when multiple employees touch these surfaces throughout the day?

Have your employees avoid touching these (when possible), use a nearby disinfectant to sanitize if soiling is visible (per CDC recommendation), and consider asking your janitorial service to clean these surfaces a couple times throughout the day (some offer this service).

And of course, encourage your employees to live healthy lives outside of work. Because that keeps their immune system strong and resistant to the cold and flu.

Ultimately, you can’t eliminate the cold and flu from infecting some of your employees. But you can reduce the rate.

And that leads to happier and more productive workers, along with higher profitability and less stress having to cover for sick team members.