How to Avoid Getting Sick at the Office

It is upon us once again: flu season. Nobody enjoys a cold or the flu, and being stuck in an office where sniffling and coughing are commonplace may eventually lead to germy microbes landing on your desk.  Getting sick at work is easy when so many viruses cause the common cold; and colds are the biggest reason why adults miss work. Trying not to catch a cold is tough when you’re surrounded by infected colleagues and work spaces. Although it’s impossible to stay away from germs altogether, there are steps you can take to avoid getting sick at work.

Wash your hands Frequently

Cold prevention starts with frequent hand washing. Germs lurk everywhere…doorknobs, remote controls, elevator buttons, microwave door handles, pens, pencils and more.  If you wash your hands constantly, you will stop spreading illnesses to others and also protect yourself from germs.  The most important times to wash your hands are before and after you eat; after using the restroom; and after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose.  Make sure when you wash your hands that you do so for at least 20 seconds.

Try Not to Touch Your Face

Germs spread mainly through saliva droplets that are emitted when people talk, cough, or sneeze. These tiny droplets can easily get in your mouth and nose, or you could breathe them into your lungs.  Additionally, they can remain on your skin or other common objects & surfaces near you. And, to complicate matter further, most flu viruses can survive for up to eight hours (while cold viruses can live for about three hours). If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose, this is typically how you contract the illness.

Step Back, Jack!

You don’t need to be in close proximity with someone who has a cold or the flu to get sick.  Infected patients can spread their germs to others up to six feet away.  If you notice a co-worker who is constantly coughing, sneezing, or sniffling, try to avoid them at all costs. If a co-worker is ill, try to encourage that person to stay home to prevent spreading the illness.  People who are ill should ideally remain home until they are fever or symptom free for at least 24 hours.  Or, if your office has a fairly liberal work from home policy, take advantage of it.

Keep Hand Sanitizer and Tissues on the Ready

Tissues are best used to contain spreading germs from coughing, sneezing, etc.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizer typically has at least a 60 percent alcohol content, and although they don’t remove all types of germs, these gels can immediately decrease the germ content on your hands. Also, by practicing this behavior of keeping tissues and sanitizer handy, you’re subtly encouraging your co-workers to do the same.

Clean Shared Items

If you never saw that news story about hotel rooms and germs, the world was shocked when we learned that the dirtiest, most germ-infected item in the room was not the bathroom – but the TV remote!  With that said, you should simply avoid sharing items with co-workers, such as your phone, computer, conference room remote controls and food.  And, any other frequently touched item should be disinfected to prevent the spread of germs.