Take out your sweaters and prepare for sniffles – cold and flu season is upon us. Starting in October and dragging out until May, the seasonal flu can hit at any time. In 2014-2015, Canada saw more than 43,000 cases of the flu – nearly doubling the previous year. Considering that 80 percent of common infections – including the flu – can be spread through contaminated hands, there’s never a more important time to remind yourself, coworkers, family and friends the importance of hand hygiene.
To make your workplace and home a healthier, more productive environment, it’s crucial to take healthy actions like getting a flu shot and establish regular hand hygiene practices.
Promoting a Healthy Work Culture
A recent study found that within four hours, a virus similar to the flu spread to more than 50 percent of surfaces and employees in an office. With an average 9.3 sick days per person, absenteeism due to illness in Canada is estimated to cost the Canadian economy $16.6 billion. Lost work days lead to lost productivity – harming a business in more ways than one.
Yet, lost productivity and sales isn’t the only problem. When waking up with flu-like symptoms, many people still choose to go into work. In fact, 64 percent of Canadians say they go to work or send their children to school if they’re sick, spreading the germs further. Reminding employees to use sick days when needed is a major step in preventing further infection and promoting a healthy workplace culture.
This cold and flu season, draw attention to the many ways employees can limit their risk of infection and keep the working environment clean, healthy and productive for everyone with these handy life hacks:
Re-learn how to wash your hands.
This year, encourage yourself, coworkers and others to wash hands properly. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (try singing the chorus of a favorite song twice), and scrub all areas of the hands, including under the fingernails, in-between fingers and the backs of the hands. Hands should be rinsed with warm water and dried completely with clean, disposable towels.
Use a paper towel to open doors.
After hands have been cleaned, the last thing you want to do is contaminate them by touching a dirty door knob or light switch. Using a paper towel to touch high-touch surfaces creates an effective barrier, ensuring hands stay clean well after they are washed.
Keep hand sanitizer handy.
Hand sanitizer placed at desks and near entryways and exits in the workplace encourages employees to use it throughout the day when soap and water isn’t available.
Create helpful reminders.
Whether it’s a sticky note on your cubical or a digital reminder on your computer screen, keep tabs on your hand hygiene throughout the day by leaving behind helpful reminders to wash hands a few times a day.
Disinfect your workspace.
Did you know that most workspaces have hundreds more times bacteria than a toilet seat? Even if your office is regularly cleaned, make sure to wipe down your computer keyboard, mouse, pens and desk regularly. It only takes one sick coworker to cough or sneeze near your desk to contaminate your workspace.
Healthy Hands, Healthy Year
Just as germs can quickly build up in the workplace, they can easily infect an entire home. To ensure your family is safe from cold and flu bugs, make sure to encourage hand hygiene at home with regular routines such as band after eating, after touching a pet, playing outside or taking out the trash.
Every year, cold and flu season makes a dramatic appearance in the workplace, schools and homes. This year, take a stance and use every day hand hygiene hacks to prevent the spread of infection. After all, healthy hands lead to a healthier, more productive year for everyone.
About the Author
Patrick Boshell is the Marketing Director for Deb Canada and the managing editor for Deb Group's Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety blog. He's been actively involved in the Canadian commercialization of several Deb innovations including Optidose InstantFOAM Hand Sanitizer for healthcare and GrittyFOAM Heavy Duty Hand Cleaner for manufacturing and industrial applications.
Patrick is an advocate for making hand hygiene contagious in the workplace. He is also a social media enthusiast, using tools such as LinkedIN and Twitter to help educate the importance of effective hand hygiene and skin care to a global audience. To connect with Patrick, please contact him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.