Avoiding the Office Flu



Young business man blows his nose while working at his laptop

The flu affects 10 to 20% of New Zealand’s population every year.

Influenza infections can happen anytime. Even so, they peak in winter and spring in New Zealand.

With this statistic, you need to protect your office from a flu-outbreak.

Flu-related absenteeism can cripple operations and affect productivity.

The good news: there are several measures you can take to keep the flu out of your workplace.

How Do You Keep the Workplace Safe?

Workplace safety requires preventative measures.

Since the flu season remains predictable, you can start preparing your office for the flu season early.

1. Give Flu Shots to Your Employees

One of the easiest and most effective ways of preventing the flu is to encourage vaccination.

According to Fight Flu New Zealand, the flu vaccine offers the best protection.

In most workplaces, employees cannot afford to take time off and get the flu vaccine. Between meetings, out-of-office commitments and daily tasks, they have little to no time.

You can simplify the process by organising an on-site vaccination clinic. This makes it easy for employees to get their vaccines without leaving the office.

How to Get Employees Vaccinated

While organising a vaccine clinic, contact different vaccination centres such as:

  • The Immunisation Advisory Centre
    They will offer comprehensive information on the vaccines you need for the year. This will include dosage specifications for different age groups. This is quite helpful if your vaccine clinic is open to employees’ dependents’.
  • Workplace vaccinators
    Fight Flu New Zealand offers an exhaustive list of workplace vaccinators. You can contact one of them to help you with the vaccine clinic. You can find a workplace vaccinator in your area on this list.
  • Vaccinating pharmacies
    Some pharmacies offer the flu vaccine and will support a workplace vaccination clinic. You can contact a pharmacy in your area to learn more about how they can support you.
  • Corporate Services
    There are several companies offering workplace vaccination as a service. You can hire them to run the clinic and support the vaccination process in your workplace.
    Running a successful vaccination clinic requires extensive coordination between you and the vaccinator. Start preparing for it early.
    Early preparation gives the vaccinator enough time to prepare for the clinic. This includes ordering the vaccines from The Immunisation Advisory Centre.

2. Give Time Off to Employees Looking to Get the Shot

If having an onsite vaccination clinic is impossible, simplify the process for your employees.

Since you cannot force employees to get the vaccine, you must get creative. Small nudges and encouragement will help increase the uptake of the flu vaccine.

You need to make it easy for your employees to get vaccinated.

How to Simplify the Vaccination Process for Employees

  • If you have private insurance, make sure it covers the flu vaccine. Transferring the cost to an insurer eliminates a major financial barrier. Even with several immunisation subsidies, you’re better off offering employees vaccine coverage.
  • Provide your employees with all the information they need to get vaccinated. This should include;
    • The importance of the vaccine.
    • Vaccination centres around the workplace and their home.
    • Vaccination subsides they can use.
  • Offer a ‘vaccination leave’. Employees can take some time off from work and get the vaccine. You can offer the leave every Friday afternoon and limit if for a month to create a sense of urgency. Employees will most likely go together, increasing vaccine uptake.

3. Isolate Sick Co-Workers (With Kindness)

Encourage sick employees to use their sick days and stay home. The flu spreads fast; you do not want a sick employee coming to the office.

Giving one employee a day off can save you from having several employees on sick leave for weeks.

If an employee must come to work, encourage them to wear a mask and sit in a private room. This reduces the risk of exposure for other employees.

Creating a Support System for Sick Employees

Isolation while sick can feel lonely. Instead of using it as a last-minute solution, include it in your workplace support system.

Making it part of your policy improves your flu outbreak preparedness. You can implement it even when there are other viral respiratory outbreaks.

Your support system for the flu should:

  • Encourage employees to work from home if they choose not to use their sick days. This limits their contact with other employees, minimising the risk of new infections.
  • Educate employees on how they can minimise the spread of the flu. A sick co-worker should take responsibility and not spread the flu in the workplace.
  • Supply the sick employee with an alcohol-based sanitiser. Using sanitiser at all times can reduce the spread of the virus.

4. Clean and Disinfect the Office

Clean and disinfect the office

Even with strict measures, you risk having an asymptomatic person bring the flu to the office.

If this happens, you can get rid of the virus by cleaning and disinfecting the office on a regular basis.

You should create a plan to disinfect, clean and sanitise your office.

The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitising and Disinfecting the Workplace?

  • Cleaning removes dirt and germs. While it does not kill germs, it lowers their numbers, reducing the risk of an infection spreading.
  • Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces and objects. It is effective in reducing the risk of infection but does not get rid of dirt.
  • Sanitising helps by reducing the germs to a safer level. The process either cleans or disinfects the surface; it depends on the type of sanitiser you use.

Flu-Preventing Office Cleaning Solutions

Deep Cleaning – They offer an eco-friendly solution and help you get rid of both grime and dirt. With these products, you can create a daily or weekly deep cleaning system. It will keep your workplace clean and healthy.

Sanitisers – Alcohol-based sanitisers can help you clean water-resistant surfaces and items. Use alcohol-based sanitisers to clean shared spaces and items like doorknobs and rails.

Handwashing Posters – This will serve as a visual reminder for proper handwashing. Place them next to every handwashing station. You can use a different colour for the posters, such as red, for flu season.

Deep clean services
Alsco’s Deep Clean Services eliminates all mould, mildew and fungi.
Hand Sanitisers
Hand Sanitisers eliminate microbes within seconds.

5. Encourage Personal Hygiene as a Flu Prevention Measure

Personal hygiene plays a role in protecting your workplace from the flu.

It may seem like common sense yet most people spread the flu by neglecting basic hygiene.

Start by re-educating your employees on measures they can take at a personal level. It can be as simple as handwashing or coughing into a disposable tissue.

Effective personal hygiene begins with the right information. Make sure your employees know what they can do to protect themselves and others.

What Should Office Personal Hygiene Entail?

  • Accessible hand sanitisers around the office. Make it easy for employees to get hand sanitisers, for example, after shaking hands.
  • Placing handwashing stations on every floor. Make sure you equip each station with water, soap and disposable hand drying tissues. Regular handwashing can reduce the risk of an infection spreading in the workplace.
  • Discouraging people from shaking hands during flu season.
  • Replacing office soft drinks with immune-boosting alternatives. Good substitutes include orange juice, apples and tea.

Are You Ready to Maintain a Flu-Free Workplace?

Employers and employees need to take responsibility. Both should help keep the flu away from the workplace.

Your employees can take on personal responsibility. You should then support their efforts by creating a flu-free environment.

Alsco NZ can help you maintain a flu-free workplace by:

  • Supplying your handwashing station. They offer a wide selection of disinfectant soaps employees can use to prevent the flu from spreading. You can call them for eco-friendly soap options and compact soap dispensers.
  • Providing you with alcohol-based sanitisers. You can choose from a wide selection of hand sanitisers. Buy them in bulk and distribute them to employees or place them around the office.

If you are ready for a flu-free workplace, contact Alsco NZ today.

Photo: freepic.diller

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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.