Protect your workplace against the flu

It’s fall, and we hope you’re planning all of your favorite things right now — decorating with fodder shocks, painting pumpkins, picking apples and getting lost in corn mazes.

You can enjoy none of them, though, if you’ve got the dreaded flu, which also rears its ugly head this time of year. This highly contagious respiratory illness is caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs. It can be mild or severe, and, in some cases, lead to death.

Though the flu affects people year-round, flu activity begins to increase in October and peak between December and February. And while there’s a huge focus on educating students in schools about how to prevent the spread of the disease, taking measures in the workplace is just as important. As customers move in and out and coworkers interact, offices become a place where germs can spread.

So hold your pumpkins and make sure your workplace is taking these precautions to protect employees and customers from the flu:

Take time to immunize.

Your best defense against the flu is to get the flu vaccine, and to best protect against the disease’s peak season the CDC recommends everyone get their flu vaccine by the end of October. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, so consider that when deciding when to immunize. While you can see your doctor or visit a number of urgent cares or pharmacies to get your flu shot, workplaces can also host vaccination clinics (hosted by health insurance or workplace wellness companies) to help encourage employees to protect themselves and others from the disease.

Wash your hands.

Have you been hearing this since you were a kid? Probably. Does it still apply? Yes. You never grow out of needing to wash your hands, especially as you touch surfaces in public places that others have touched. Keeping your hands clean is extremely effective in minimizing the spread of the flu. In case you’ve forgotten how to do it well, here are a few guidelines. Tip: You don’t need antibacterial soap, regular soap will do the trick. Using antibacterial soap could create more resistant strains of bacteria in the future.

Keep your workspace clean.

Whether you have a cleaning service or everyone is pitching in to keep the office clean, take a few extra precautions during flu season like wiping down countertops, door handles, keyboards, phone receivers and any other item that is shared by more than one person. Keep bleach wipes handy in several locations to make it easy for everyone to help.

Stock up.

Make sure you have plenty of extra soap, tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers on hand so that no one is left unable to clean their hands or cover their mouths and noses when needed. Keeping hand sanitizer in multiple places around your workplace will help coworkers and customers clean their hands in busy situations.

Stay home if you are sick, and keep distance from those who don’t.

This may be the most important rule of all. If you are sick, especially if you are running a fever, don’t chance it. Stay home. The less you expose yourself to others, the less likely your illness will spread. Once a doctor deems it safe for you to return, continue to keep sneezes and coughs covered. And if someone at your workplace chooses to come to work despite being sick, make sure to keep a safe distance. The CDC recommends at least three feet.

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