5 Simple Workplace Flu Prevention Strategies

According to Statistics Canada, only 24% of Canadians got the flu shot last year. Does this dwindling statistic mean we will see an uprising in absenteeism from flu illnesses? Not if you take action to be pro-active about flu prevention.
Even when an employee gets the flu shot, the vaccine only includes 3 strains of the flu virus, which leaves individuals vulnerable to the over 300 other flu strains, as well as the over 200 viruses that cause the common cold. So whether or not an employee opts to get the flu shot, other protections are needed to keep your workers healthy during the cold and flu season.
The following are some simple ways you can make a difference in your workforce’s flu susceptibility for this upcoming flu season:
1. Encourage Clean Hands
Proper hygiene is the most effective protection for the flu by preventing the spread of the virus from one person to the next. A friendly reminder posted in bathrooms to wash with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds can go a long way but may not be enough. Place alcohol-based hand sanitizers at key areas around the office – like the lunchroom, elevators, meeting rooms, etc. Encourage employees to clean their hands before eating, after shaking hands with someone, after using the elevator, and after using a co-worker’s phone or computer.
2. Catch Sneezing & Coughing
There has been a big media campaign in recent years to encourage people to cough and sneeze into their sleeve or elbow. And it’s effective. The most common way the flu virus is spread is through an infected person coughing or sneezing into their hands and touching people or things. Posters placed around the office reminding employees of the elbow technique can definitely be helpful. Another way to discourage people from coughing and sneezing into their hands is to have tissue boxes distributed liberally around the office. Sometimes the smallest ideas can produce the biggest results.
3. Immune-Boost Your Vending Machine/Lunch Room
Switch out those chocolate bars, cookies and soft-drinks for healthier options. Sugar can decrease the immune system – so Janet’s Snickers and Coke at 3pm can make the difference in whether or not she catches the flu after borrowing Barry’s pen. Replace the junk with some immune boosting foods like apples and oranges, which have vitamin C. Pure fruit juices (no sugar added) can also provide some added vitamins, especially if they include dark berries like pomegranate, blueberry and cranberry. Naturally fermented foods like yoghurt can also help charge the immune system. Pumpkin seeds are chock full of zinc – known to be powerful immune boosters.
4. Immune Charge Your Tea Selection
Many workplaces offer a bottomless supply of coffee and tea to their employees. Adding variety to your tea selection can provide some flu prevention opportunities. Ginseng, Ginger, Echinacea and Green Tea have all been shown in studies to reduce the number of flu infections. Chamomile and mint tea can decrease stress, which has a significant impact immunity. Licorice tea can decrease inflammation as well as boosting immune. Traditional Medicinals, available at Loblaws, make a couple of great medicinal teas that can help treat sore throats and cold symptoms – “Cold Formula” and “Throat Coat.” Allegro, available at Whole Foods, makes some great immune-boosting teas – “Seasonal Well Being” and “Glowing & Flowing.” Don’t forget to stock some honey and lemon to add to tea – honey itself has been shown to be great flu prevention.
5. Take Out The Stress
Stress is an often overlooked cause of immune system depletion. And there’s a lot that an employer can do to decrease stress in the workplace. The options are vast, and can include organizing a yoga class or an on-site massage day, or something simpler like an email teaching deep breathing techniques or stretches. Encourage your employees to take breaks when needed, and to avoid eating lunch at their desks. Give praise workers who take the stairs or go for a walk at their lunch break. A great way to de-stress is through laughter. Don’t shy away from sharing some comics or jokes to lighten spirits during the flu season.
For more information about Well Street’s Flu Services, read more on our website or contact us.