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Feb 10, 2016

It starts innocently enough when one employee gets the flu.

Then, two more come down with it, and before you know it, it seems like everyone is sneezing and wheezing.

It seems as though once the flu hits your office, there is no way to avoid it spreading to everyone — particularly when you work in an open office. How can you prevent the epidemic from infecting the entire team?

The flu is a virus that can be spread by droplets, meaning tiny microscopic particles that are spread when your employees talk, sneeze or cough. The flu bug can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours outside of the human body, meaning it can be spread more easily in open spaces and shared workspaces.

Studies have shown that employees of open work spaces are prone to take more sick days.

6 tips to help keep your office flu-free

Here are some tips to create a healthier and flu-free workplace for your employees and avoid the HR nightmare of the entire office being out sick:

  1. Keep the shield strong — Avoiding the flu starts your employees taking care of their immune system. This is the very first line of defense against the flu. Encourage employees to make sure their immune systems are operating at full strength by getting plenty of sleep, eating whole foods, getting fresh air and moving their bodies.
  2. Insist on frequent hand washing — Encourage frequent hand washing, especially after group meetings or after being in shared spaces (like kitchens, bathrooms, copy or conference areas). Keep hand sanitizer at your desk and make sure it is available for your employees to use as well. Remember, whether using soap and water or sanitizer, it takes 15-20 seconds to be effective.
  3. Clean and disinfect your area — Make sure you go above and beyond and clean your desk area and items you routinely touch with sanitizing wipes — and encourage your employees to do the same. You should wipe high-touch areas such as phones, keyboards, computer mouse, mobile phone, your desktop and doorknobs. Don’t forget anything else you come in contact with multiple times per day.
  4. Avoid touching your face — Remember that the flu virus can live on a surface for 24 hours. Use caution with what comes in contact with your face — particularly your eyes, nose and mouth. Use your own dishes or disposable dishes rather than relying on others to thoroughly wash dishes.
  5. Take breaks outside — Being inside in a closed building for 8-12 hours per day means that all those germs are just circulating through the air. Encourage employees to step out and get some fresh air during work breaks to give those internal germ filters a refresh.
  6. Encourage remote working/staying home when sick — When employees are sick, be flexible enough to let them stay home. Coming to work sick is one of the biggest ways that the flu is spread.

The bottom line is this: Flu is avoidable, and it can be kept contained with a bit of proactive immune work and reactive hand washing and cleanliness around the office.

By getting everyone on the same page, you’re much more likely to get through flu season without an epidemic.