Last year Australia had dramatically lower numbers of influenza cases than in previous years. There’s been a lot of discussion around what factors led to this, but it is quite clear that improved personal hygiene and less physical interaction must have played a part. But what does that mean for this year? As borders are opening, flights are operating and people are gathering there is no doubt that viruses are spreading. In the first few months of this year we experienced an explosion of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in cities across the country. Here in Cairns, hand foot and mouth disease also spread rapidly and unchecked. As flu season looms just around the corner, are you ready and how can you keep your office flu free?
5 Ways to Keep Your Office Flu Free:
- Clean hands prevent disease. Make hand sanitiser available around your office and remind people to wash their hands regularly. Hand hygiene is particularly important when moving from one space to another; such as from the retail area to the office space, going to or from the break room, and of course after using the bathroom.
- Sanitise frequently touched surfaces. Shared workspaces, door handles, lift buttons, access code panels, and shared phones should be wiped down regularly. Encourage staff to use their own pens and other items where possible rather than sharing.
- Cover that sneeze! Covering coughs and sneezes prevents the spread of droplet particles through the air. Simply sneeze into a tissue or your inner elbow (also known as the vampire sneeze) to reduce droplet spread.
- Encourage people to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best defence against catching influenza (and having it spread through your workplace). Many companies have a policy of compulsory flu vaccination each year. Even if you don’t have such a policy, you can support people to get vaccinated by providing free vaccinations or offering to reimburse the cost.
- Create a better workplace culture. Australians are well known to work through just about any illness. I’ve known people with gastro illnesses who have still shown up to work and I’ve sold hundreds of cold and flu tablets to people who insist they simply cannot miss their shift. But this is what spreads viruses. Make it easy for people to stay home when sick by having a clear sick leave policy, no shame or workplace joking when people are unwell, and the ability to work from home (if possible) until completely recovered.