Flu season is one of the busiest times of the year for the office cleaning industry. U.S. businesses lose billions of dollars annually due to outbreaks of the flu in fall and winter. During last year’s flu season, productivity losses were estimated at more than $15 billion, and those numbers could be even higher this year.
As an employer, you can’t stop flu season from happening. But you can take steps to prevent flu outbreaks in your office. The following flu prevention tips can help reduce the risk of infection in your office, keeping your workforce (and your bottom line) in good health during flu season.
Encourage Worker Vaccination
Vaccination is the single best defense against the flu during cold and flu season. In a typical year, the flu shot will reduce your chance of contracting influenza by 60%. Unfortunately, less than half of Americans get the flu shot each year. Coverage is even worse for adults between the ages of 18 and 49, only one-third of whom receive vaccinations.
If you’re worried about the impact of the flu on your workforce, you should encourage employees to get the flu shot if they already haven’t. Thanks to the principle of herd immunity, a vaccinated employee will not only have a lower chance of getting the flu on their own, but they will also decrease the chance of other employees getting sick. The higher the percentage of vaccinated employees in your workplace, the more resistant your workforce will be to flu outbreaks.
To encourage vaccinations, many offices will host a pop-up vaccination clinic in October or November. If you aren’t able to organize a pop-up clinic, you can provide workers with a list of nearby locations where they can receive the flu shot.
Teach Smart Hygiene Practices
One of the most common ways that the flu virus spreads is through surface contamination. First, a sick employee gets their germs on their hand. Their hand then comes into contact with a high-touch surface, like a door handle. When other employees touch that surface, their hands become contaminated, putting them at high risk of infection.
Another common vector for infection is coughing and sneezing. When a sick employee sneezes or coughs, tiny particles of germy saliva become aerosolized. If they did not cover their mouth, these particles enter the air. These particles are then breathed by other employees, triggering infection.
To reduce the risk of flu outbreaks at work, many workplaces run hygiene initiatives during flu season. Employees are encouraged to use proper hand-washing techniques, to use hand sanitizer throughout the day, to avoid touching their face with their hands, and to cough/sneeze into their arms. Combined with rigorous office cleaning practices, this will limit infection vectors at work.
Keep Sick Workers at Home
Influenza, like any other virus, spreads from person to person. This can only happen when infected individuals come into contact with others. If an infected person is kept separate from healthy people, the virus is contained.
As an employer, you can’t force workers into quarantine. But you can create incentives for sick workers to stay at home. Encourage your employees to stay home if they start to experience symptoms — even mild ones — of a cold or flu. Re-examine your sick leave policies to make sure that you don’t disincentivize your workers from calling in sick.
If possible, put resources in place to make working from home easier at this time of year. This is one of the best ways of discouraging workers from coming to work sick. Workers won’t lose wages or be perceived as slacking off if they are working from home with mild symptoms. At the same time, infectious germs will be kept far away from your office.
Stock Up for Flu Season
During cold and flu season, it’s a good idea to stock up on hygiene products and office cleaning supplies. Hand sanitizer is a must-have item during flu season. You can make free, travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer available to workers for personal use and put larger dispensers at key points throughout the office.
Another office cleaning item you’ll want to stock up on is disinfecting wipes. This way, you and your employees will be able to keep high-touch surfaces germ-free throughout the workday, even at times when your office cleaning team isn’t on site. You can use disinfecting wipes on desk surfaces, door handles, elevator buttons, faucet handles, and other frequently contaminated surfaces.
Increased Office Cleaning
At JAN-PRO®, we know how important office cleaning services can be during flu season. So, if you’re worried about the health and well-being of your workforce, it’s a good idea to review your office cleaning practices and policies.
Most office cleaning service providers will be happy to adjust cleaning practices in light of seasonal health concerns. During cold and flu season, this could mean cleaning your office more frequently, stricter disinfection protocols, or upgrading the cleaning products used in your office.
A number of our office cleaning clients ask for increased usage of our EnviroShield® disinfection process at this time of year. EnviroShield® uses a non-toxic, eco-friendly disinfectant that eliminates 99.99% of flu virus particles on contact. Thanks to an exclusive ionizing applicator, EnviroShield® can disinfect areas and surfaces that other disinfection systems can’t reach, making it an ideal choice for office cleaning during cold and flu season.
Learn more about flu prevention with JAN-PRO and request a FREE quote on office cleaning services by calling 866-355-1064 today!