With winter well and truly underway, it’s getting to that time in the season where everyone at work is sick, and you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy and germ free. In Australia, research has shown that the flu could cost up to $884 million per year for businesses, with nine out of ten workers still going to work despite having flu-like symptoms.
As a pharmacist at Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse, I am constantly seeing an increase in patients contracting influenza in the cooler months, and this is not an uncommon trend each year. When working a shared environment and with people who may have the flu, it is at times hard to avoid.
Here are three easy steps to take in your workplace to keep you and your staff healthy this winter!
Prevention is integral, especially in places where people have constant contact with their co-workers or outsiders. The most effective prevention is vaccination. All employees should be encouraged to be vaccinated against influenza during the March – May period. Quite often workplaces will fund vaccinations for employees and have an onside vaccination program – this will often be quite cost effective and prevent sick days.
Many workplaces, including a number of government departments are now utilising vaccination vouchers for staff. This allows staff members to visit their local participating pharmacy of choice to receive their vaccination at a convenient time for them.
Getting vaccinated is easy – trained pharmacists are legally able to vaccinate adults against influenza in all Australian states and territories. This means there is no need to book a doctor’s appointment to get vaccinated!
Promoting a healthy workplace and educating staff can help foster immunity, nutrition and health for staff. Simple things like posters reminding staff to wash their hands can go a long way in helping to prevent the spreading of germs within a workplace. Promoting a healthy, balanced diet can also support a healthy immune system, including a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Perhaps a fruit bowl at work could encourage healthy snacking and therefore an increase in fruit intake amongst staff.
Other important lifestyle choices include, maintaining an adequate fluid intake daily, aiming to undertake 30 minutes of exercise daily and getting at least 7 hours sleep each night. This can be encouraged in the workplace with water stations available for staff to access. Having easy access to water will encourage and remind staff to drink more water throughout the day. Organising after work group exercise is a great way to get staff moving for 30 minutes as well as a fun social gathering for staff outside the workplace.
Smokers should be encouraged to quit and safe alcohol consumption should be encouraged.
The flu virus can remain alive in a confined space, like a meeting room, for about an hour, on hard surfaces for up to eight hours and on hands for five minutes. This is plenty of time for the virus to spread from one person to another without any trace. It is often hard to stop the transfer of a virus as it can’t be seen and there is no way to tell if a surface or a space has been contaminated.
Create a work place culture that discourages staff attending work if they are unwell. Unwell employees will recover quicker and the spreading of illness will be contained. Similarly, discourage unwell visitors to your workplace.
Washing hands regularly with soap and water can help reduce transmission. Where soap and water are not readily available, consider having hand sanitiser easy accessible to staff. Additionally, shared surfaces and equipment in the workplace should be cleaned regularly to ensure and trace of viruses are removed. The following should be cleaned regularly and can be easily cleaned simply by wiping them down with a disinfectant wipe:
- Door knobs and handles
- Buttons on equipment such as photocopiers or microwaves
- Surfaces of shared equipment such as power tool
- Keyboards, particularly before you use another person’s keyboard
- Telephone buttons and handles, particularly before you use another person’s telephone
- Handles of kitchen equipment like coffee pots and microwaves
- Benches and counters
- Books or other materials which are shared
Following these tips will help keep your workplace germ free and healthy through the cold winter months. Pharmacists are health professionals so pop in to any Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse store for professional advice or any further questions on staying flu free this winter!