The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays a year, in turn costing employers, like you, about $7 billion annually in sick days and lost productivity.
Each year the seasonal flu peaks between December and February, but preparing for cold and flu season should start in late October. Prevention begins with encouraging healthy habits among your employees and maintaining a clean facility.
Illnesses like the flu compromise an employee’s ability to perform their daily tasks, meaning they may be operating slower than normal or could be making more mistakes. Decreased productivity and increased mistakes will cost you money.
Pathogens, or germs that cause disease, are spread by infected individuals depositing germs to surfaces, where other people then pick them up. Germs spread quickly and easily through workplaces because of the increased number of communal areas such as shared workstations, restrooms, break rooms, and cafeterias. Many of these pathogens have the ability to live on surfaces for several months if not effectively treated.
In this article, we provide 5 important cold and flu prevention tips to help keep your employees healthy.
Cold and Flu Prevention Tips For the Workplace
- Discourage Presenteeism
- Clean and Disinfect High Touch Surfaces
- Implement a Hand Hygiene Program
- Provide Facial Tissues
- Host an On-Site Flu Shot Clinic
1. Discourage Presenteeism
Employees who attend work while experiencing symptoms of illness or other medical conditions yield reduced productivity by at least one-third. Presenteeism is linked to poorer quality work and increased mistakes, both of which can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
Employees who come to work sick also increase the chance of getting other employees sick.
Protect your facility by limiting the number of germs your employees bring in. Even with the best cleaning procedures and employee hygiene, employees will get sick. When experiencing flu-like symptoms, encourage the employee to stay home.
Employers typically do not want to encourage an employee to take unnecessary days off, but if you don’t encourage the employee to stay home when they are sick, you are actually fostering the spread of illness. The increased costs of sick employees will be more expensive than an employee sick day.
2. Clean and Disinfect High Touch Surfaces
All high touch surfaces throughout your facility should be cleaned and disinfected as a part of your janitorial staff’s daily cleaning and maintenance routine year-round. But cleaning and disinfecting is especially important during flu season.
High touch surfaces are any areas that are frequently touched by people throughout the day. Areas that need to be cleaned and disinfected daily, or in some cases multiple times a day, include keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, copier buttons, and phones.
It is important to understand that cleaning and disinfecting are two different procedures that should be completed together to remove and kill germs. It is important to clean before disinfecting unless you are using a cleaner/disinfectant. Cleaners/disinfectants remove and kill germs at the same time.
Pro Tip: Cleaning removes loose soils, preparing the surface or object to be disinfected. If a surface is not cleaned first, germs can hide under soils and reduce the efficacy of the disinfectant. Disinfecting kills germs on the surface, preventing them from spreading.
To learn more about the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, check out our article: What is the Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?
You should select a broad-spectrum, multi-surface cleaner/disinfectant with EPA registered kill claims against influenza and norovirus.
After application, make sure the cleaner/disinfectant sits for the recommended dwell time.
Dwell time is the amount of time a disinfectant must remain continually wet on a surface for effective disinfection. Re-wetting a surface after it has dried to try and achieve the required dwell is not an effective procedure. It must remain continually wet for the required time. If the disinfectant does not remain wet on a surface it may not be killing the stated virus, fungi, or bacteria.
Cleaner/disinfectant products, like Oxivir TB wipes, have a relatively short 30-60 second dwell time. When used on hard, non-porous surfaces, this product only needs to stay wet for 1 minute for effective disinfection against norovirus.
Disinfectants that are not applied for the proper dwell time are not effectively disinfecting and are not meeting EPA requirements. Refer to your chemical manufacturer’s data for the proper dwell time for each organism type.
Pro Tip: In addition to your custodial staff’s daily cleaning routine, consider placing disinfectant wipes at each employee’s desk and in high-traffic areas, like meeting rooms and cafeterias. Increased availability and accessibility will empower employees to clean and disinfect their own areas and areas they frequently touch more often.
3. Implement a Hand Hygiene Program
Hand hygiene has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce germ transmission.
Implementing a hand hygiene program can be as simple as encouraging staff to follow the proper handwashing procedures and to use hand sanitizer.
Display Proper Handwashing Procedures
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to remove germs from your hands and prevent germs from spreading around the workplace. It is recommended to supply regular hand soap for handwashing, not anti-bacterial soap.
Displaying the proper handwashing procedures in cafeterias, restrooms, and break rooms will remind employees that frequent and proper handwashing is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of illness.
Provide Hand Sanitizer to Employees
If soap and water are not readily available, the next best defense is alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The best way to encourage employees to use hand sanitizer is by making it easily accessible and always within sight.
Providing hand sanitizer to employees at their desks and in high-traffic, communal areas throughout your facility can reduce health care claims for hygiene preventable illnesses, like the flu, by 20%.
4. Provide Facial Tissues
A single sneeze produces more than 40,000 aerosolized droplets of moisture and millions of germs.
The best way to reduce the number of germs becoming airborne is by encouraging employees to cough or sneeze into a tissue and then disposing of it right away.
Airborne germs can cause contamination via secondary inhalation or absorption through skin or cell membranes. By using a tissue, the risk of germs becoming airborne is greatly reduced.
Tissues should be conveniently placed at each employee’s workstation or desk to encourage employees to use them. If this is not feasible, instruct employees to cough or sneeze into the bend of their arm.
5. Host an On-Site Flu Shot Clinic
Hosting an onsite flu shot clinic makes it as easy and convenient as possible for employees to get vaccinated.
Getting the flu shot helps prevent the flu by giving the body antibodies as a line of defense.
When employees don’t have to leave work to go to another location for a flu shot, they feel less inconvenienced and are more likely to attend the clinic. By maximizing employee participation, you reduce the chance of an employee spreading illness to others.
By implementing some or all of these cold and flu prevention tips in your workplace, you will help keep your employees healthy, more productive, and increase your bottom line. Productive employees get more done, putting you at an advantage over competitors by allowing you to increase your bottom line.
Imperial Dade is committed to helping you reduce the spread of germs, providing a wide variety of commercial cleaning supplies to help your facility combat illness this cold and flu season.
If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, contact an Imperial Dade Specialist to create the best combination of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment to keep your occupants healthy and your facility clean.