The change in season means more than just colder weather and shorter days. Fall is also the start of the dreaded cold and flu season.
While you can't guarantee that you and you'll employees will avoid it completely, you can take steps to stay healthy and prepare your office when someone does get sick.
Here, our collection of some of the best cold and flu season advice.
Create a contingency plan.
Examine your critical operations and the individuals who perform them and discuss how to build contingencies around how these tasks could get done in the event that someone is away sick. "Managing the human resource element of a contingency plan is critical," says Nim Traeger, vice president of casualty services risk control at Travelers Insurance.
Read More: How to Make a Flu Season Contingency Plan
Be aware of your office's danger zones.
You probably know that sick faucet handles contain a lot of germs, but you might not be aware of some other danger areas. According to a 2012 Health Workplace Study conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, keyboards, microwave door handles and vending machine buttons all have alarmingly high levels of bacteria.
Read More: What the Flu Is Costing You (Infographic)
Reconsider visiting the doctor.
If you think you have the flu, but you're not quite sure, don't automatically visit the doctor. Call instead. Otherwise, you risk coming in contact with germs at the doctor's office or spreading them to others.
If you fall ill, Dr. David Scheiner, an internist in Chicago Hyde Park's neighborhood advises drinking plenty of fluids, getting lots of rest, taking acetaminophen for fever and ibuprofen for the aches and pains and avoid going outside in the cold. Oh, and do not go into the office and infect everyone else.
Read More: 5 Ways to Avoid the Flu in the Workplace
Avoid touching your face.
All flu viruses are transmitted from hand to face. "You can get the flu if someone directly sneezes into your face, but it's much more likely [to be transmitted by] shaking hands with somebody or touching something that someone else has touched and then putting your hands into your eyes, nose or mouth," says Karen Anderson, manager of Infection Control and Prevention at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
Since you likely won't know if you have come in contact with an infected surface or person, keeping your hands away from your face can significantly reduce your risk of illness. You are most likely to touch your face when you're eating, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after.
Read More: Asia Bound? 5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Bird Flu
Eat a salad.
You may be tempted to head straight for citrus to get some vitamin C, bell peppers and dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, brussel sprouts and broccoli pack a better punch. Red bell peppers have almost three times the vitamin C that's in an orange.
While vitamin C can't make a cold or flu go away, it can reduce the time you're affected by it, says Tonia Reinhard, senior lecturer in nutrition and food science at Wayne State University in Detroit. Reinhard recommends eating at least some of these vegetables raw, or dipped in hummus for some extra protein, to maximize nutritional content. "Vitamin C is high in many vegetables, but [cooking them] reduces vitamin C content," she says.
Read More: 5 Superfoods That Battle the Cold and Flu
"Part of the reason people get sick easier [during cold and flu season] is because the mucous membrane dries out and you become more susceptible to infections," says Dr. Ty Vincent, Medical Director at Mat-Su Integrative Medicine in Wasilla, Ala.
Avoid drinking excessive amounts of coffee and alcohol which are dehydrating and consider investing in a humidifier if you live in a particularly dry region.
Sure, mucus is gross, but it's actually critical for your protection. The body responds to infection by trying to clear things out of your respiratory tract and requires mucus to do this. "If your mucous membrane from your nose to your eyes and respiratory tract is dried out, you're more susceptible to viruses and bacteria and other infections," says Vincent.
Read More: Natural Remedies to Battle the Cold and Flu
Encourage employees to work at home.
Giving employees the option to work at home keeps germs away from the workplace and reduces the risk of other coworkers becoming sick. "If you have an exposure [to others], you should not be coming to work when you're sick and spreading it to other people," says Dr. Joel Fuhrman,a N.J.-based family physician and author of Super Immunity (HarperOne, 2011)
Read More: 4 Ways to Protect Your Office from Cold and Flu Germs