Sniffles, coughs and sneezes are common sounds at the office this time of year. While you can't keep your office completely germ-free, you can take a few simple preventive measures to keep your employees and happy and healthy as possible.
While regular hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces are important to create a healthy environment, Dr. Joel Fuhrman,a N.J.-based family physician and author of Super Immunity (HarperOne, 2011), says promoting good nutrition and boosting your immune system is the most effective way to stay healthy at work.
He offers these tips to protect your workspace from making you sick.
1. Practice and promote good hygiene. Promote regular hand washing in the office and provide employees with their own box of tissues and waste basket to dispose of germ-filled tissues. Furman says simply shaking hands with an infected individual or touching a surface that was touched by someone else with the virus isn't what actually makes you sick. It's bringing your hand to your face that causes you to be affected by the virus.
"If you keep your hands clean and keep them away from your face, it's very hard to catch [the cold and flu]," says Fuhrman. Cleaning stations posted near office entrances and antibacterial wipes in common areas such as meeting rooms, reception areas and the kitchen can also help to reduce the spread of viruses.
2. 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 Fuhrman.
3. Encourage employees to speak up. Encourage co-workers to let each other know that they aren't feeling well so others can take proper precautions. Let your employees know that it's OK to go home when they are feeling sick. While shaking hands may be a common courtesy in the meeting room, announcing that you're suffering from a cold and simply saying hello rather than shaking hands won't be considered poor etiquette.
4. Promote good nutrition. The best way to prevent the cold and flu is improving your body's resistance to the virus. "Our best protection that gives us the strongest superman-like armour against illness is really keeping ourselves healthy," says Fuhrman who promotes dietary changes to boost the body's immunity and boasts that he's never taken a sick day. Fuhrman discusses a group of foods he terms "GBOMBS" -- greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds -- which he says are essential for feeding the immune system, enabling it to fight off viruses.
"Feeding your body processed foods means that when you do catch a virus, it can last longer or turn into something more serious," says Fuhrman. Help protect employee health by ditching the pizza parties and stocking the office kitchen with GBOMBS instead.