1) Encourage influenza immunization
The influenza vaccine is the most effective way (other than staying locked away) to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu. While flu-shot effectiveness can vary from year to year (as the immunization is predictive of which strains are most likely to break out), getting a flu shot is usually the best way to avoid getting the flu.
2) Clean and disinfect
Doorknobs, handles, keyboards and even the buttons on the copy machine harbor cold and flu germs and are great places for unsuspecting employees to increase their odds of becoming ill. In addition to having your cleaning staff disinfect common surfaces on a daily basis, place antibacterial wipes near surfaces that are shared by staff and encourage them to wipe before touching during the cold and flu season.
3) Develop a Sick Policy for your place of work and communicate it
As an employer, if you don’t want your employees to spread illness around the office, you have to be comfortable with allowing your workforce to stay away from work if they are contagious. A cold can be contagious for 3 to 5 days and the flu is contagious for 5 to 7 days. Much to the dismay of many co-workers, people often feel pressure to show up at work while they are contagious.
4) Encourage employees to avoid or minimize close contact with people who are sick
Let your employees know that it’s not “crazy” to avoid and minimize contact with those who are coughing, or with those who have a runny nose, sore throat or fever. Some people feel singled out as “paranoid” if they try avoid those who are sick. The fact is, it’s wise.
5) Encourage workplace hygiene
– Washing hands, especially before touching the mouth/nose/eyes, can greatly reduce the chances of catching an illness. Wash for 30 seconds or so with soap and warm water, making sure to get under the nails. You should wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing (or hum) the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
– Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the elbow to minimize the spread of germs. Sneezing can spread germs up to 200 feet (according to the MIT sneeze study). While most sneeze droplets land within 3-6 feet, many become airborne and can circulate throughout the workplace.
– Encourage employees not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth, which are the areas through which viruses are spread.
6) Promote a healthy lifestyle
Encourage employees to get adequate rest, exercise and to manage stress and other health conditions. A healthy mental and physical state, along with managing chronic health conditions, can go a long way in boosting the immune system.
Remember that someone with the flu is contagious for up to 7 days and a cold can be contagious for 3-5 days. If employees feel pressured to be at work when they are sick, they can spread these illnesses to other workers