By: Matt Hayas, Global Product Manager, Hydro Systems
Every year, Americans brace themselves for the impact of influenza season by taking precautionary measures. From getting flu shots to carrying pocket-size hand sanitizer, sometimes even our best efforts aren’t enough to stave off symptoms. The 2018-2019 flu season brought with it 21 weeks and more than 42 million cases of the flu, making it the longest flu season in 10 years.
As illness in the workplace can greatly impact productivity, companies should prepare for the inevitable and try to diminish the impact of flu season.
Consider these best practices for keeping the workplace clean and healthy for employees:
• Encourage employees to get their annual flu shot. Besides preventing people from coming down with the flu, getting a flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations for children, working age adults and older adults by 40-60%. In addition, vaccines can reduce the severity of the sickness in people who still fall ill, and can help protect those who are vulnerable to disease. For the 2019-2020 season, a quadrivalent vaccine is being offered that provides protection from four different strains of the flu.
• Promote proper hand hygiene. Viruses spread easily, and contact such as handshakes or touching items in communal workspaces like desks, keyboards or laptops, can transmit germs from one co-worker to another. Reminding employees and building visitors to wash their hands often, as proper handwashing with soap can prevent respiratory infections by 16-21%. Also consider providing hand sanitizer at strategic points like near elevator banks and in conference rooms to help limit the rapid spread of infection.
• Remind workers to take a sick day when necessary. It can take anywhere from 3-7 days for flu symptoms to subside, but unfortunately many Americans would rather power through their symptoms than stay home. However, it’s crucial for leaders to stress the importance of the health and wellbeing of everyone. The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays and contributes to $7 billion in lost productivity. Managers should encourage employees to stay home if they show signs or symptoms to prevent a domino effect of illness and absences.
• Use the proper cleaning tools. Updating the custodial closet before and after cold and flu season is a great way to ensure your facility has the right equipment on hand, especially if there’s an outbreak that will require extra stock. Use disinfectant chemicals that kill cold and flu germs. From microfiber cloths and mops to chemical dispensing systems, the right cleaning tools support a healthy workplace. Chemical dispensers specifically help reduce the spread of germs by accurately dispensing disinfecting chemical according to manufacturer recommendations. During cold and flu season, it’s especially important for employees to have access to a user-friendly dispensing system to help clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
• Clean, disinfect and sanitize. Flu viruses can survive and remain infectious on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, especially at lower temperatures. That’s why it’s important to understand that some methods alone, like antibacterial wipes, don’t always kill germs. Combining cleaning, which removes dirt and germs from surfaces with soap and water, with disinfecting and sanitizing, is a major step toward creating a safe and healthy workplace. The disinfecting process uses chemicals to kill germs, and sanitizing a surface lowers the number of germs to a safe level according to public health standards or requirements. Combining all three methods daily is the only way to ensure your workplace is prepared for flu season.
More strategies and cold and flu season insight can be found in our recently published white paper, “Supporting Health and Wellness with Dispensers.”