Well, hello there flu season. Nice to see you again (not).
Flu season in Australia goes from April to October, peaking at around August - during these coldest months is when you’re most likely to pick up a bug.
It’s at this time that your workplace and offices need to be extra vigilant with frequent cleaning and improved air quality to minimise the incidences and spread of flu at work. That way, you can reduce the impact on productivity and avoidable sick days.
Better indoor air quality for better health
When your employees spend up to 8 hours a day inside your workplace, it can have a significant impact on their health and your business if the air is poor quality. In fact, one study found that poor indoor air quality can result in a 6-9% productivity loss. Poor quality indoor air can trap and concentrate a range of pollutants and germs - not the kind of stuff you want to expose your employees to! Common indoor air pollutants and microorganisms include mould, mildew, bacteria, viruses, dust, gas, grease, pollen, cigarette smoke, chemical cleaners, paints, and glues.
So, how do we improve air quality to reduce the incidences of flu at work and minimise lost productivity? Here are some helpful tips:
- Choose your cleaning chemicals carefully to avoid toxins (and choose effective cleaning methods that require fewer or no chemicals)
- Increase your cleaning maintenance schedule
- Vacuum regularly, using a HEPA filtered machine - HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters force air through fine mesh that is designed to trap small particles and contaminants
- Upgrade to HEPA and electronic air filters
- Change all air filters regularly
- Use the tech to control indoor humidity levels - optimal humidity is higher than 40% (but not so high that mould grows) to minimise airborne flu particles (side note: this explains why the flu is easier to spread during winter when humidity levels drop)
- Ensure employees do not smoke indoors
- Don’t use air fresheners that contain irritating, toxic chemicals
- Use air cleaners that can kill microorganisms and neutralise pollutants
Increase your cleaning and maintenance schedule to minimise the spread of germs
While the flu virus can spread through the air, to really prevent the spread of the flu at work, you’ll also need to make sure it doesn’t hang around on surfaces. While it depends on the surface type, generally, you can expect the flu virus to survive and remain infectious for around 9 hours after a surface is contaminated. This might happen after an infected person at work sneezes over a table or touches a door handle.
So, when it comes to protecting your employees from getting the flu at work, your best approach is to up your cleaning and maintenance schedule. Make sure your facilities manager and cleaning professional frequently sanitise surfaces in common areas, like:
- Door handles
- Light switches
- Phone handles and buttons
- Tables and countertops
- Machine buttons
Using the right cleaning equipment
and products will weaken and deactivate the flu virus to minimise the spread of infection. It’s also important to regularly wash reusable cleaning supplies like cloths and sponges.
Educate your team on good hygiene
Sometimes, your employees and colleagues could do with some education (or a friendly reminder) on what good hygiene looks like, especially as you head into flu season. Good hygiene will help reduce the amount of germs that end up on surfaces and in the air. Plus, it might even help your employees avoid picking up (and sharing) germs from home and public transport. Here are some flu season tips you could share at a meeting, via email, or on a few strategically placed posters:
- Cough or sneeze into your shirt or a tissue
- Frequently wash hands (washing for at least 20 seconds), especially before and after eating, and after coughing or sneezing
- If you can’t get to a tap, use hand sanitiser
- Dispose of tissues straight into the bin
- Ensure your coffee mug and other utensils are washed thoroughly after use
- If you’re unwell, stay at home until you’re no longer contagious
- If you do get unwell, make sure you sanitise your electronic devices and work area
Your workplace can help reinforce these guidelines by providing basic supplies like tissues on each desk and installing hand sanitising stations throughout.
Create a healthier workplace this flu season
If you can reduce the spread of flu at work by just 30% with these tips, imagine how much healthier and more product your employees could be throughout flu season?
Thorough cleaning, a more frequent maintenance schedule, and the right equipment to improve hygiene and air quality are all smart investments that can pay off for your organisation and employees.