How to Save Yourself When Everyone Else in Your Office is Getting Sick



There is nothing worse than having to report to work feeling under the weather. But almost everybody will go through this at some point in their professional lives.

In fact, according to the Business NZ Wellness in the Workplace 2017 Survey, the average number of time employees took off work due to illness was 4.4 days at a time.

The survey also shows that New Zealand has lost about 6.6 million working days to sickness between 2012 and 2017. Companies lose up to $1,000 per employee on sick leave. This translates to a direct loss of over $1 billion in 2016 alone.

While companies encourage employees to stay home when unwell, studies have shown that up to 40% of staff will still show up sick. The report shows that employees are usually absent due to sickness or taking care of a sick family member.

In order to be a productive employee, your wellness must come first. It’s important to save yourself when your colleagues are feeling unwell. There are a few tips and tricks you can turn to for your wellness at work.

Take the Shot

During flu season, there is usually a mass immunisation drive in most countries. The flu shot is usually administered to prevent you from catching the virus. It will be best for you to line up and take the shot in order to protect yourself from that sneezing deskmate at work.

There are outbreaks that happen from time to time depending on which part of the world you are in. Conditions like Meningitis, Hepatitis and many other contagious diseases can take you down. Keep your ear open for vaccination drives to make sure you are virus-free.

Have Your Hand Sanitiser Ready

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The best way to keep your hands germ-free is to thoroughly wash them as many times as possible during working hours. However, if you are unable to do so, have some alcohol-based hand sanitiser handy. A rub of sanitiser on your hands will keep germs from pitching camp and making you ill.

You can put in a request to your company to provide hand sanitisers. Alsco New Zealand offers heavy-duty sanitisers which are soft on the skin but tough on germs.

A sure way of keeping yourself sick-free is to avoid touching your face, biting your nails or working on a desk that you have not taken the time to wipe down – these are some of the ways that you can transfer germs to your eyes, mouth and nose and risk becoming sick.

Encourage a Sick Colleague to Take Time Off

This may sound a little mean but think of it as doing a greater good. If you encounter a colleague who is showing signs of sickness, encourage them to take some time off in order to be more productive and prevent spreading it to the rest of the team.

A good team leader or manager should also reinforce the wellness policy in the workplace and remind staff members to take much needed time off to recuperate. Employees must take advantage of their right to time away from work due to injury or illness in order to be more productive upon their return to work.

Seek an Alternate Workspace

There are those colleagues who will stick it out at work even when they are feeling sick. In such a case, you can find another workspace to get your work done. It can be an empty desk elsewhere or an available office space.

During the flu season, you can request for a work-from-home day to stay away from sick colleagues. This is obviously dependent on the employee policy in place at your workplace. This workday from home is best taken when you feel you are coming down with something.

Take Care of Yourself if You Start Feeling Unwell

The moment you start feeling the sniffles coming on, take extra care of yourself. It can involve going to bed earlier, staying hydrated, taking vitamin supplements, eating more citrus fruits for that extra vitamin C or getting some medication to alleviate the symptoms. At this point, it’s also better to request some time off to take care of yourself. Remember, you’re more valuable to your family and workplace when healthy.

Promoting Health And Wellness in The Workplace

According to a Regional Public Health (RPH) Guide to Promoting Health and Wellness in The Workplace, companies should consider having a Health and Wellness policy in place to ensure that employees give their best while on duty.

Wellness programmes promote job satisfaction, physical fitness, nutritional benefits, energy, high morale and less sickness or injury in the workplace. Some of the ideas the companies can try include:

  • Let’s Get Physical: According to the RPH report, sickness in the workplace can be exacerbated by being sedentary in the workplace. Companies should have a physical activity plan in place. It can be fitness programmes, no-elevator days and encouraging staff to get off their seats at regular intervals during the day. In short, just get moving!
  • Eating Right: Companies can have healthy meal options in place for employees. This means discouraging vending machine snacks. Companies can liaise with a local vendor who can deliver or prepare healthy meals for staff members. They can also have memos that talk about healthy eating hacks around the office to encourage healthy eating.
  • Smoking Zones: In an ideal workplace, there would be no smoking allowed on the premises. However, companies usually try and accommodate their smoking team members. In such a case, make sure that the smoking zones are far away from the main workspaces. Second-hand smoke impacts health just as direct smoking does.
  • Mental Wellness is a Must: Aside from physical injuries or illness, one of the things on a steady rise in mental illness. Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses have started to impact many people, especially in the workplace.

    Mental wellness can be promoted by recognising work well done from time to time. Having a professional counsellor hired in-house or sourced from outside the company to come and speak to staff members is a great way to promote mental wellness.

  • What Else?: Another thing companies can do to promote health and wellness is to have breastfeeding and baby care facilities on site. Many parents have anxiety issues if they can’t attend to their young children’s needs in a way that doesn’t negatively impact their working day.

    Most importantly, encourage all team members to check in with each other. This is a great way of monitoring any changes to team mental wellness. Promote discussion on the topic to remove the taboo.

    And encourage good hygiene by printing some eye-catching workplace hygiene posters and placing them in the washroom and around the office.


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Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.