Businesses lose roughly $16 billion a year to the flu, with direct costs to employers running about $76 million. With the median cost of hurricane recovery running about about $1.8 billion, that means the US could recover from approximately 48 hurricanes every year for the price of a single flu season. And that’s just the cost to businesses. The average cost to the 40 million people that suffer from the flu every year is roughly $250. But flu costs to both businesses and individuals can be drastically minimized by simply stopping the spread of the virus. Here are 5 ways to avoid spreading the flu at work.
1. Get immunized
Probably the very best way of helping to stop the spread of the flu virus is to get immunized. While the flu vaccine only boasts about a 60% effectiveness rate at preventing the flu, it can significantly reduce the severity of the flu even in those that contract it. While the flu vaccine has traditionally only been available in October and November, it is now available all the way through January. Flu season does not generally peak until February, but adults are encouraged to get a flu shot as early as possible to give your immune system plenty of time to develop antibodies for that strain of influenza.
2. Work remotely
The flu virus seems to have something of a domino effect in most workplaces. One person comes down with it and the next thing you know, 10 other people are out sick. As soon as you start to develop flu symptoms, you should do your best to stay home from work. If someone else shows up at the office with flu symptoms, that’s also a good time to try and work remotely if you can. Not only are you likely to actually get more done working remotely, but you are far less likely to get sick, which will only serve to doubly increase your productivity overall.
3. Get religious about washing and disinfecting
Thera are many different studies about the effectiveness of hand sanitizer and their potential to create “super bugs” but during cold and flu season it can definitely be the lesser of two evils. While the absolutely best way to disinfect your hands of potential viruses is good old-fashioned soap and water, you can’t always get to a sink. In addition, when people are making it to a sink, they aren’t always washing their hands correctly to prevent the spread of viruses. Use hand sanitizer any time you come into direct contact with someone else or even when someone has visited your office or cubicle – particularly if they sneezed, coughed or blew their nose while they were there. If you share a desk or any office equipment with anyone, it’s always a good idea to wipe it down with disinfecting wipes before using it.
4. Avoid contact
Cold and flu season is a great time to be a bit more stand-offish with colleagues. If you are the one to start showing symptoms, carry a Kleenex or handkerchief with you and use it if you need to cough or sneeze. In a pinch, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve can help stop the spread of airborne viruses. If others need to cough or sneeze, keep some Kleenex handy for them to help protect yourself. You should also avoid touching your face during cold and flu season. Viruses are generally transmitted through the nose, mouth and eyes. If you get any viral fluid on your hands and then wipe your face, you are significantly increasing your chances of contracting a virus. Remember, healthy adults can spread the virus a full day before symptoms develop, so even if a person isn’t showing symptoms it doesn’t mean they aren’t contagious.
5. Stay healthy
One of the very best ways of preventing the spread of the flu is to give your immune system all the help it needs to help keep you healthy. Remember, however, your immune system is a system. There is not magic pill or formula for keeping it healthy, but people with healthy lifestyles also tend to have the healthiest immune systems. Keeping your immune system healthy involves getting plenty of rest, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and working to keep stress at a minimum. Take care of your immune system the rest of the year and during cold and flu season, your immune system will take care of you. Having said that, however, here are also a number of vitamins and supplements that can potentially give your immune system an extra kick during cold and flu season.
Any way you look at it, one of the best ways to weather flu season is by practicing prevention long before it rolls around. From keeping your immune system healthy to getting an immunization, your best defenses against the flu should be built up months in advance. Once flu season is upon you, all you can do is try and stay away from potential infection as much as possible and do your best to weather the storm.