Cold and Flu Season: Illness Prevention in the Workplace


Nobody likes getting sick — and it’s even worse when coughing, sneezing and headaches lead to lost time at work. Unfortunately, it only takes one person to get a large group of employees sick, so it’s important to understand the nature of colds and the flu in the workplace. This cold and flu season, you can take steps to reduce the risk of spreading germs that wreak havoc on people’s health. Cold and flu prevention in the workplace is a team effort, so be sure to clearly communicate preventative measures if you’re in charge of workplace health and safety. Learn the actions every employee should take to prevent an outbreak.

Encourage Vaccination

Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent the spread of influenza at work. There are new flu strains every winter, and a flu shot protects against the types that researchers determine to be the highest risk. This year, the most common strain is the H3N2 virus — one that is known for creating more severe epidemics than other strains. We are entering the height of flu season for 2016-2017, so it’s not too late to benefit from the vaccine. Flu shots are especially important for people in high-risk categories, such as those with chronic illnesses or those over 65 years old, so be sure to look out for your most vulnerable workers.

Sick Days Benefit Everyone

In our work-centric culture, it’s easy to make the mistake of encouraging employees to power through their sickness to stay productive. The problem is, as soon as sick employees set foot in the workplace, they put those around them at risk for illness. What could have been a few days off work for one employee can quickly turn into sick days for dozens of employees. It’s important to remind your employees that they should not be afraid to stay home when they’re sick, because they might assume management is against it. A communicative team culture goes hand in hand with a healthy team — don’t be afraid to make it clear that employee health comes before everything else.

Be Mindful of Symptoms

Sometimes a cold or the flu begins during the middle of a workday, and a sick employee has no choice but to make the best of the situation for a few hours. In these cases, it’s best for that person to do everything they can to prevent others from getting sick. Viruses typically spread through cough or sneeze droplets, so have tissues on hand for those pesky bodily responses. Ensure that hand sanitizer is readily available throughout your facility, so people coming down with something don’t get those around them sick. Encourage regular hand washing with signs near sinks.

A healthy workplace is a productive one. It’s in everyone’s best interest to prevent the spread of colds and influenza, and the best defense against the spread of disease is a knowledgeable team. When everyone is on the same page and working to prevent illnesses, then the workplace will be a healthy one. Getting sick is never 100% preventable, but taking certain measures is worth the effort. If you don’t have a plan in place for winter health and safety, now is the perfect time to make one! Check out our blog post “Seasonal Safety Tips: Winter Edition to learn more about what you can do to make improvements for the season.