In a very busy work environment, it’s easy to become distracted and put health on the back burner.. Unfortunately, skipping healthy habits can make us more susceptible to illnesses like viral and bacterial infections. It’s not good for business when employees or their family members are sick, so here are some tips for preventing illness in the workplace.
1. Offer immunizations: Vaccines are effective at preventing illnesses like the flu and other infectious diseases. Encourage employees to keep their vaccines up to date for themselves and their families. It’s best to make immunizations as convenient and cost-effective as possible. Employers can offer on-site clinics and choose a health plan that provides vaccines at little or no cost to participants.
2. Promote healthy foods and drinks: Maintaining a healthy diet and consuming a wide variety of essential nutrients can ward off disease. Next time you are thinking about offering doughnuts for a breakfast meeting, consider a healthier option like fruit and a low-sugar, high-protein yogurt. You could also implement a healthy vending and catering policy at your organization, which requires foods offered in the workplace to meet certain nutrition standards. Additionally, our bodies are not well-equipped to fight infections when we are dehydrated. Filtered drinking water should be easily accessible at your worksite. Installing water bottle refill stations makes drinking water a convenient choice. Always offer water as a beverage option at meetings and work events, and make sure that vending machines and cafeterias stock plenty of water as well.
3. Keep food safe: How long have those leftover turkey sandwiches been sitting out in the break room? Did employees wash their hands and follow good food safety practices when preparing their prized dish for the annual pot luck? Generally speaking, after about two hours at room temperature hot and cold foods will no longer be safe to eat. Make that only one hour if your employee picnic is outside in the summer heat. To keep hot and cold foods fresh longer, they must be properly insulated with hot and cold packs to maintain a safe temperature. Wash hands and prep surfaces between tasks like handling raw proteins and preparing ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables.
4. Minimize stress: Acute and chronic stress can weaken the immune system and make you more prone to infections. Stress in the workplace can have a number of causes such as working in an environment where employees have little control and high demands. Reducing stress in the workplace not only prevents the spread of infectious diseases, but also prevents many chronic conditions such as obesity and heart disease.
5. Encourage ZZZZs: Getting the right amount of quality sleep is important for many reasons and helps with fighting off diseases. Unfortunately, about a quarter of adults report having insufficient sleep at least 15 out of every 30 days.
6. Clean work spaces: Maintain good hygiene when it comes to your workplace. Bathrooms, common areas, break rooms, phones, keyboards, desks, door handles and elevator buttons can be germ magnets. Keep the common areas clean and encourage employees to clean personal office spaces regularly. Make sure bathrooms and break rooms are always stocked with plenty of hand soap to promote good hand hygiene.
7. Have a sick policy: An employer’s sick policy can dictate whether an employee is likely to come to work or stay at home when they are contagious or not feeling well. It’s important for employees to stay at home when they are sick. Sick employees are not productive at work, and staying home prevents the spread of disease to co-workers. An employee should not feel discriminated against or scrutinized for using sick days. Supervisors should be flexible and encourage their employees to refrain from working until they are no longer contagious and are feeling better.
Implement these simple tips at your worksite for a healthier, happier workforce. If you should have any questions, please contact your HR Representative at 925-556-4404.