As the cold and flu season approaches in the post-COVID era, it becomes vital for both employers and employees to prioritise creating a healthy working environment. The risks associated with seasonal illnesses can impact not only physical health but also overall productivity and well-being. In this article, we will explore the measures that can be taken to minimise the spread of illnesses in the workplace, emphasising the importance of good hygiene practices and staying home when unwell.
It’s important to create a workplace environment where everyone (employer and employee) feels empowered to take on responsibility for their health and for the safety of their colleagues. This means providing education on the importance of hygiene in preventing the spreading of germs, as well as making sure that everyone is aware of the necessary protocols to follow if they get sick.
Preventative Measures for Employees:
Good Hygiene Practices:
Encourage employees to practise regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. During lockdown, everyone was encouraged to sing happy birthday, while washing hands. Design fresh signage and informational posters that are different from what has been seen over the past two/three years. Doing so will draw attraction to the message and will help reinforce the message of good hygiene. Provide hand sanitizers throughout the workplace and ensure that all touchpoints, such as doorknobs and shared equipment, are sanitised regularly.
Staying Home When Unwell:
Emphasise the importance of employees staying home when they are feeling unwell or displaying symptoms of a cold or flu. All staff members should be provided with sick leave and employers should understand that absences due to illness are unavoidable. Consider implementing flexible sick leave policies that encourage individuals to prioritise their health without fear of repercussions.
Proper Respiratory Etiquette:
Educate employees about the importance of covering their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow while sneezing or coughing. Discourage the sharing of personal items such as cups, utensils, or towels.
Employers’ Contributions to a Healthy Workplace:
As a leader in the business, the best you can do is lead by example. Follow the advice above and if you feel ill, don’t battle on. Instead, listen to your body and take the necessary time off. As a small business, here are some other elements to consider.
Consider offering on-site flu vaccinations to employees. Flu jabs can significantly reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Collaborate with medical professionals to organise vaccination drives annually, ensuring a sufficient supply for all employees. At SKC occupational health, Su Chantry and her team are able to create bespoke plans to fit your business. Feel free to reach out here and start the conversation about your business workplace well-being program. Flu vaccinations are one part of this overall offer.
Improving Ventilation Systems:
Adequate ventilation is crucial in preventing the spread of airborne illnesses. Regularly maintain and upgrade ventilation and air conditioning systems, to ensure efficient air circulation within the workspace. Encourage the use of natural ventilation where possible.
Regular Sanitisation of High-Touch Areas:
Implement a rigorous cleaning regimen that includes regular sanitisation of high-touch areas such as door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, and shared equipment. Provide disinfectant wipes or sprays for employees to clean their personal workstations.
Create an environment that allows for physical distancing by rearranging workstations, implementing flexible schedules, and promoting remote work options. Reduce overcrowding in common areas such as break rooms and meeting spaces to minimise close contact between individuals.
Offer healthy cold and flu-fighting snacks and food:
Review the food which is offered in vending machines, canteens, or kitchen areas. Are there healthy food options available? Offer snacks that are rich in Vitamin C, such as oranges, citrus fruits, and berries. Additionally, stock up on foods such as yoghurt, nuts, and seeds for easy healthy snacking. Providing these options will help to boost the immune system of your employees.
Provide educational materials about workplace well-being through emails or printed flyers. Remind employees of the importance of hand washing, physical distancing, and the use of face masks when necessary. Encourage them to stay home when sick, seek professional medical help if feeling unwell, and get vaccinated when available.
The NHS has great information on its website sharing guidance for the cold and flu season, check out the page here. If you are looking for the latest expert guidance on how to create a healthy and safe working environment, Su and the team offer a range of services and training to help employers, managers, and employees.
Remember that a healthy and safe work environment starts with you. Take the necessary steps to ensure your workplace remains a safe space for everyone. Encourage employees to take proactive measures such as getting sufficient rest, eating nutritious meals, and exercising regularly. Taking good care of their health and well-being will keep them happier.
Creating a healthy working environment during the cold and flu season post-COVID requires collective efforts from both employers and employees. By implementing these measures, we can safeguard our physical and mental well-being, maintain productivity, and create a safe and thriving workplace. Remember, it takes everyone’s commitment to make a difference! If you need support please contact us here.