With cold and flu season approaching, we spoke to Anthony Donjerkovic, Health, Hygiene & Safety Specialist to discuss four tips for preventing cold and flu in the workplace.
TIP 1: Practice good hygiene
Maintain good hand hygiene
According to research, the average person touches their face around 69 times per hour.1
“Cold and flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to eight hours and on a person’s hands for around five minutes. Avoid touching your face, wash your hands and use hand sanitiser regularly. Keep in mind, hand sanitisers must contain at least 70% ethanol to be effective,” advises Anthony.
Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces
“Targeting hot spots is key, especially during cold and flu season,” says Anthony.
“Use soap or detergent and water to break up oil and grease before using a disinfectant spray to kill germs on high touch points like elevator buttons and bathroom doors. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and resting time,” Anthony advises.
Read our blog on cleaning vs disinfecting to find out more.
Follow cough and sneeze etiquette
“The most common cause of germ transmission is through fine droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Use a tissue and immediately throw it away after use, or cough and sneeze into your elbow if you can’t find a tissue,” says Anthony.
TIP 2: Equip your workplace
Have the right equipment
According to Queensland Health, body temperature can vary depending on several factors but a temperature over 38°C is usually a sign of a fever.2
“Provide employees with complimentary packs containing hand sanitiser, facial tissues, wipes and masks to encourage good hygiene practices at work and while travelling to and from work,” recommends Anthony
Offer a free flu vaccine
“Vaccinations are our best defence against the flu. Offer free flu shots at work and encourage employees to get vaccinated to break the chain of infection,” suggests Anthony.
Create a comfortable working environment
Although staying warm won’t prevent cold or flu, research shows when your body is cold, blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing less blood flow and making it easier for cold and flu viruses to multiply.3
Set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature to help workers feel more comfortable in the workplace.
Tip 3: Encourage healthy habits
Share health tips
“A balanced diet can help strengthen your immune system,” informs Anthony.
“Host a juice day and provide complimentary juices and recipe cards to employees. Hold a healthy cooking competition where employees compete to create the tastiest dish. Share tips for building healthy habits and encourage employees to share their own. Get a conversation going,” says Anthony.
Tip 4: Review your sick leave policy
Outline the process for taking sick leave including notice, submitting sick leave and circumstances where evidence, like a doctor’s certificate, is required.
Ask employees to stay home if unwell
54% of Australian workers still show up to work despite being sick.4
“Not only do you put others at risk when you come to work sick but overexerting yourself during a bout of cold or flu can also weaken your immune system,” says Anthony.
NSW health recommends if you are sick with flu, stay at home and avoid close contact with others to prevent them from becoming sick. Wait at least 24 hours after fever resolves so you that you are unlikely to infect others.5
1 Chamary, J., 2020, ‘You’ll Be Surprised How Often You Actually Touch Your Face’, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/jvchamary/2020/07/30/
2 Queensland Health, 2019, ‘What is a fever: when should you worry about a high temperature?’, <https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/what-is-a-fever-high-temperature-should-you-take-your-child-to-the-doctor>
3 Health Engine, 2008, ‘Cold and Flu Prevention,’ <https://healthengine.com.au/info/cold-and-flu-prevention>
4 Waterlogic Australia, 2020, ‘Winter tips to combat flu season in the workplace’, <https://healthengine.com.au/info/cold-and-flu-prevention-at-work>
5 NSW Government Health, 2021, ‘Influenza factsheet’, <https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/