Flu Prevention in the Workplace

Flu prevention is more important than ever this year because we have become more vulnerable to illnesses and diseases. COVID-19 has changed the genetic landscape of virus strains, with a University of Sydney-led study revealing how normal patterns of winter viruses in Australia have dramatically changed. New strains of viruses are now emerging, causing others to become ‘extinct’.

Viruses thrive in colder and dryer atmospheres. In Australia, more people contract the virus between May and September than in any other period of the year. The chances of becoming sick with the flu or cold at work are higher as the virus spreads throughout the workplace when staff become sick, affecting your workforce’s health, your work productivity, and the overall work environment.

How Does Flu Spread in the Workplace?

Someone who has contracted the flu can become highly contagious as soon as they are infected. However, flu symptoms might not appear in the early stages of the illness, which is when the chance of transmitting the virus is the highest. Flu is usually most infectious for 3-7 days from the day your symptoms start.

Employees going to work while sick with the cold or flu are likely to infect their colleagues when they sneeze or cough. Once symptoms appear, they will usually take time off, leading to lost work hours and productivity. Although the pandemic has increased workplaces offering flexible work arrangements for employees, employers may still see their resources stretched thin, with healthy employees needing to stretch their abilities, time, and efforts to cover for absent colleagues.

Four Flu Prevention Tips For Your Workplace

TIP 1: Practice good hygiene

Maintain good hand hygiene

Did you know that the average person touches their face around 69 times per hour?

The more we touch our face, the higher the chance that we become infected with the flu. Cold and flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours and on a person’s hands for around five minutes. Encourage your workers to avoid touching their faces and wash their hands and use hand sanitiser regularly for flu prevention. Keep in mind, hand sanitisers must contain at least 70% ethanol to be effective at killing viruses and germs.

Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces

Target high touch points, like elevator buttons and bathroom doors, with soap or detergent and water to break up oil and grease before using a disinfectant spray to kill any germs present in these hot spots for flu prevention.

Follow cough and sneeze etiquette

The most common cause of germ transmission is through fine droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Use a tissue and immediately throw it away after use, or cough and sneeze into your elbow. Make sure to fully cover your face when you cough or sneeze!

TIP 2: Equip your workplace

Have the right equipment

If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to introduce hand sanitiser stations at the workplace in addition to a range of other hygiene products designed to keep germs and pathogens at bay. These include disinfectant wipes and gels, tissues, soap, paper towels and no-touch rubbish bins at each work station or office.

A temperature of over 38°C is usually a sign of a fever. Non-contact thermometers are an easy and hygienic way to detect fever-related symptoms. Keep them in first aid kits and at reception areas for easy access.

You can also provide employees with complimentary packs containing items such as a travel-sized hand sanitiser, facial tissues, disposable wipes, and surgical face masks to encourage good hygiene practices whilst they travel to and from work, and within shared workspaces such as lobbies, elevators, and at work for greater flu prevention.

Offer a free flu vaccine

Vaccinations are our best defence against the flu. Offer free flu shots at work and encourage employees to get vaccinated to break the chain of infection.

Create a comfortable working environment

Although staying warm won’t prevent cold or flu, research shows when your body is cold, blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing less blood flow and making it easier for cold and flu viruses to multiply. Set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature or provide items such as hot water, tea and coffee stations, or space heaters to help workers feel more comfortable in the workplace and therefore increase flu prevention.

Tip 3: Encourage healthy habits

A balanced diet and regular exercise can help strengthen your immune system. Encourage your workers to form or continue healthy habits by hosting a lunchtime yoga session or distributing recipe cards that show what to eat to prevent flu to employees. Share tips for building healthy habits and encourage employees to create conversations about healthy habits for flu prevention.

Tip 4: Review your sick leave policy

Review and update your employees on the process for taking sick leave including notice, submitting sick leave and circumstances where evidence, like a doctor’s certificate, is required.

COVID has made workers more aware of the importance of staying home whilst they are sick, but a significant number of Australian workers still show up to work despite being sick. Not only do you put others at risk when you come to work sick but overexerting yourself during a bout of cold or flu can also weaken your immune system.

NSW Health recommends if you are sick with flu, stay at home, seek flu treatment, take flu prevention medicines, and avoid close contact with others to prevent them from becoming sick. Wait at least 24 hours after the fever resolves so that you are unlikely to infect others.

“Prevention is better than cure.” Desiderius Erasmus


Call In The Professionals For Peak Flu Prevention

Implementing all the above tips can encourage great habits and flu prevention within your employees and work culture, but if you want to truly guard your workplace against flu and colds, calling in professional cleaners could be the ideal solution. They are fully equipped to sanitise and disinfect high touch point areas safely, including keyboards, phones, shared lounge and kitchen areas, etc. They can also help you maintain and top-up hand sanitiser stations, soap dispensers, tissues, and other essential items. Regular disinfection can prevent not just flu, but other diseases from spreading in the workplace.