How to Stay Healthy at Work during a Flu Outbreak

Illustration Man Desk Office Flu

We’ve had our fair share of rampant influenzas over the years, including the Spanish flu in 1918, the Swine Flu in 2009 and the current COVID-19 outbreak. The common denominator amongst all these flu pandemics is that the virus is easily spread via air droplets and contaminated surfaces.

So, in these testing times, it’s essential to understand how to stay safe not only at home but also at work; the place where you will most likely spend a significant part of your time.

To help you prevent this illness, we’ve turned to advice from healthcare specialists to find out how to stay safe and avoid the dreaded flu. Here are 15 vital tips:

1. Sanitise your workstation

Before you get started for the day, it’s important to wipe down your workstation and anything else that you touch with an alcohol-based sanitising spray or wipe. Insider recommends using alcohol-based disinfectants with 70% isopropyl alcohol which kills 99% of bacteria to prevent the spread of illness. After cleaning your desk, allow three to five minutes for it to dry before touching anything.

2. Wash your hands

While antibacterial gel can kill certain germs, it can’t exterminate all germs like the norovirus. Therefore, opting to wash your hands is a safer way to prevent the contraction of an illness. Guidelines from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) state that you should scrub your hands for 20 seconds before washing them in warm or cold water, ensuring that you thoroughly dry your hands with a disposable tissue when finished.

3. Avoid handshakes and close contact with others

During the flu outbreak, it’s essential to avoid coming into close contact with anyone, especially those that show signs of illness. Stay at least six feet away from others and ditch the professional handshake – skin to skin contact is one of the easiest ways of contaminating yourself.

4. Clean your smartphone and bank cards

Many people get caught up disinfecting everything around them from toilets to doorknobs and fridge handles but often forget to clean the two most important items that are used often – their smartphone and bank card. To avoid causing damage to your device, wipe it down with a soapy microfibre cloth or a disinfectant wipe.

5. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow

If you’ve miraculously forgotten your hygiene lesson from elementary school – listen up! You should always cough or sneeze into a tissue and carefully dispose of it immediately. However, if you don’t get to your tissue box in time, it’s safe to cough into your upper sleeve or elbow. That said, if you have sneezed in your hand, be sure to wash them immediately without touching any hard surfaces.

6. Avoid touching your face

Any virus, especially the COVID-19, can be transmitted by touching your eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands. To reduce the chances of contaminating yourself, avoid touching your face altogether.

7. Stay home if you’re feeling sick

If you are showing any symptoms whatsoever, including high temperature, runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhoea, or vomiting, you must stay home and call your local GP or the national healthcare helpline. You should take all necessary measures to avoid passing on your illness to those around you.

8. Eat a balanced diet

During flu season, you’ll need to be more mindful of what you feed your body and increase your intake of immune-boosting foods. Leafy greens, organic products, fibres and fruits that are high in vitamin C are at the top of the list. That said, if you’re already under the weather, these suggestions from Medical News Today can help speed up your recovery.

9. Get enough sleep

As you may already know, getting enough sleep can help you avoid feeling run down. While many specialists suggest that a solid seven to nine hours a night is the recommended amount to feel fully rested, this will essentially depend on your body. You may find that you need less or more hours to function properly.

10. Sit in a ventilated room

According to the BBC, with the lack of vitamin D and proper ventilation, germs spread more easily in the cold and moist air, allowing viruses to spread faster. In order to reduce the risk of germs lingering around you, it’s important to sit in a well-ventilated room that lets in fresh air and sunlight.

11. Minimise group meetings

Use email, messenger and video calling when possible to avoid face to face interaction with colleagues and clients. That said, if meetings really are unavoidable, don’t shake hands, sit at least three feet away from each other and keep a window open for natural lighting and fresh air.

12. Consider remote work

If you work in an office job, you’ll likely be able to work from home. During a flu epidemic, ask your employer if you’re able to work remotely and ensure you have all the right platforms for communication set up. To avoid feeling isolated while working from home, ramp up your communication with your fellow employees by scheduling calls and time for your normal ‘water-cooler chats’.

13. Avoid crowded areas

If you belong in one of the high-risk groups of a certain virus, such as people with underlying health issues or the elderly, you should avoid heading out into crowded areas. That said, even if you’re young and healthy, you must consider those that are at risk and the potential contamination you can cause, and also avoid heavily crowded places.

14. Stay hydrated

While there are myths about drinking water every 15 minutes to flush away a virus, staying hydrated will certainly help you recover faster. When you’re under the weather, it’s important to drink lots of fluids as you will sweat a lot of electrolytes out when you have a fever. Failing to do so will create a hydration deficit and could make you wind up in a hospital.

15. Get in shape

Exercising is a big part of staying healthy during the flu season. It will naturally make your body healthier, boost your immune system, improve your mental health and help your body fight off any unwanted illness.

While these precautionary measures should be the focal point of your working day, it’s also vital that you carry out these tips into your daily life too. Ensure that you follow all measures to prevent infection and stay healthy all year round!

What other prevention tactics have you been following to avoid the flu at home and at your workplace? Get involved in the conversation below and let us know your thoughts!