Late fall into winter and sometimes early spring is known by many as the “Flu Season.” When you stop to think about it, it’s the time of year when people are spending a lot of time indoors, and the air is full of respiratory droplets for everyone to share. To that point, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issue tons of recommendations about how to avoid influenza and its spread. This includes recommendations for getting a flu shot, washing your hands thoroughly, not touching your face with your hands, and even wearing a mask to help prevent the airborne spread of the virus.
Though this just represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to individual measures to help prevent the spread of influenza in the workplace and indoor public areas. When we expand our focus to look at environmental factors, we see even more ways that commercial property owners and building managers can help prevent the spread of influenza.
Of course, this isn’t just about being a good property manager who cares about the health of everyone who walks through their door. Taking advanced measures to help prevent the spread of influenza and other communicable diseases will also go a long way toward maintaining a smooth workflow throughout the building.
It’s worth noting that every year “Seasonal” cases of influenza contribute to some 17 million lost workdays throughout the Unites as well as 200,000 hospitalizations. This means that every year roughly 10 to 20% of the US population gets influenza. Fortunately, there are things that employers and building managers can do to help protect employee health as well as reduce losses in productivity and revenue.
The following information can serve as a simple baseline to help control the seasonal flu outbreak. To that point, the CDC urges all businesses to help keep employees healthy during flu season. This includes
Policies To Help Prevent Seasonal Influenza In The Workplace
While the CDC recommends everyone, especially indoor employees get vaccinated against seasonal influenza, there are still a lot of other things that commercial property owners and building managers can do to help reduce the spread of influenza in their buildings, and proactively help employees or tenants to avoid lost workdays to the seasonal flu.
Encourage Employees To Stay Home When Sick
A decade or so ago the prevailing thinking was to do your best to show up to work even when you were sick, and try to keep out a manageable level of performance to “Get The Job Done.” Today analytics tells us that having an employee stay home when they feel sick not only helps them recover faster, but it also helps prevent the spread of seasonal flu in the workplace. This means that other healthy employees can perform at their best without missing days or trying to “Tough Through” to get the job done.
Provide Employees With Access To Wireless Connectivity
Today, digital technology makes it easier than ever for mildly sick employees to still engage with their co-workers via virtual meetings, e-mails, and other “Work From Home” technology. Though this might call for doing things like upgrading the building’s information technology infrastructure to enable seamless connectivity without having to worry about bandwidth issues.
Promoting A Healthy Workplace
Beyond implementing personnel policies to help prevent the spread of influenza between sick individuals and healthy employees, there are measures that property managers can implement to further prevent the spread of the seasonal flu and other communicable diseases.
Encourage Healthy Hand Hygiene
Good hand hygiene and simple things like reminding people to conscientiously “Cover” their cough. This includes doing things like posting handwashing signs to remind workers, visitors, and clients to maintain proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
Of course, handwashing is the easiest and most effective defense against flu and other illnesses. This includes simple details like ensuring that all bathrooms and handwashing stations are always stocked with high-quality antibacterial soap, as well as paper towels or other hand drying measures.
If possible, consider installing “No Touch” handwashing stations, paper towel dispensers, and sink fixtures.
Hand Sanitizer Stations
Of course, there are also times when employees and guests can’t readily get to the bathroom to wash their hands after something like a sneeze or a cough. For these moments simple things like wall-mounted or stand-mounted hand sanitizer stations give individuals the ability to kill any germs on their hands on site. Installing these stations is easier and inexpensive. Not only does it help prevent the spread of influenza and other germs in communal areas, but it also conveys a sense of confidence to employees and guests, that you have their best interests in mind.
Disposable Mask Stations
Mask awareness is at an all-time high. Providing simple stations with disposable masks in entryways, lobbies and other high foot traffic areas gives employees and guests access to masks. Which is handy if they happen to forget their personal mask. It also sends a confident message to all concerned individuals that the property management staff supports all efforts to prevent the spread of influenza and other airborne illnesses.
Workplace Cleanliness To Help Prevent The Spread Of Influenza
While proactive policies and encouraging personal hygiene are critical steps, there is still more than commercial property owners and building managers can do to help maintain a healthy environment throughout the flu season.
Deep Cleaning During Off Hours
One of the best ways to help prevent the spread of influenza and other harmful microbes is to have your workplace deep cleaned during the off hours. This involves using commercial-grade disinfectants and professional cleaning equipment to eliminate germs on hard surfaces. It is especially important for high contact surfaces like door handles and countertops.
Removing Trash & Maintaining Orderly Office Spaces
Simple things like emptying trash bins and maintaining general cleanliness might not seem like a big deal. Though doing them daily helps remove the kind of materials that microbes like bacteria and RSV can populate.
It’s important to make sure that all supplies are restocked and remain stocked throughout the building. This includes refilling disposable mask stations in the lobby, refilling hand sanitizer dispensers when they run low, making sure there is always antibacterial soap in the bathrooms, and paper towel dispensers never run out.
Maintaining A Clean Office Space During The Day
While cleaning during the off hours is convenient, there are still going to be times when your building needs cleaning and maintenance during the day. Especially in places like high-use bathrooms in the lobby, where soap and paper towels can run short in a matter of hours. Maintaining an active on-site custodial staff or day matron service will go a long way toward ensuring that all employees and guests have access to the hygienic supplies they need to do their part to prevent the spread of influenza and other communicable diseases.