It's peak season for sniffles. Here's how to keep your workplace healthy -- or fight back when something ends up going around.
The holiday season may be over, but flu season has just begun. Along with snow and mud, your employees are probably inadvertently tracking plenty of germs into the office. That’s nasty for them and nasty for you -- sick employees are (contagious) unproductive employees.
The first step is stopping people from getting sick in the first place.Of course you can’t keep them away from their neighbor’s germy kid or that cough-filled subway car, but at least you can help them arm themselves for cold and flu season. ”Some businesses schedule on site flu shots which makes it easy and convenient for employees. If you don’t have the resources to do that, you can email out a list of nearby locations that have flu shot services available,” suggests Untemplater, and don’t forget to leave some free Vitamin C lying around so employees have it to hand at the first sign of sickness.
Okay, the cold isn’t some medieval plague, but the principle of keeping the sick separate from the healthy still obviously applies, and, as we all know, modern office workers sometimes soldier on when it would be far better for the whole office if they headed home. As the boss, make sure you encourage them to stay away when sick.
"Get a clear sick leave policy in place and stick to it," suggests Untemplater. "You want people to be able to take time off to recover without feeling guilty, stressed, or worrying if they’re going to get paid or not." But just setting out a sensible policy on sick leave isn’t enough. You also need to reinforce it on the ground: "keep a close eye on your teams especially during the height of cold and flu season. If you notice certain individuals displaying symptoms, take the initiative and send them home to rest. Some people are stubborn or hesitant to speak up about going home and will try to work through sickness when they’re actually at their most contagious."
Keeping infected employees out of the office is a great start to battling seasonal sickness, but it needs to be paired with sensible sanitation measures, according to Untemplater. Anywhere lots of people touch is likely to be teeming with germs. Go on the offense. Wipe off that grimy cellphone, and disinfect microwaves doorknobs, light switches, etc.
Another germ breeding ground you might not have considered is sponges. Toss ‘em. "Paper towels are a good alternative, microwaving damp sponges to kill germs, or replacing sponges often can help prevent cold and flu in the office," notes Untemplater.
When Someone Gets Sick
Do all of the above and more doing all you can to keep your team healthy through the winter months, but let’s be honest -- more than likely someone is going to get sick nonetheless. It might even be you. At least there’s lots of advice out there on how to battle your sniffles. Business Insider, for instance, just offered a dozen tips on fighting your cold or flu, including:
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel