5 tips for avoiding the office flu this winter
How to keep your call center humming (instead of coughing)
The winter months can often seem really long. If you’re based in the Pacific Northwest, like me, the short, gloomy days take a real toll on your mood and on your health. And if you make it through the holidays without getting sick, the January blues will keep you from your overconfidence!
Once we get past the fall and early winter, it can seem like all we have to look forward to is a long, cold winter highlighted by peak flu season. But there are a lot of little things you can do do avoid getting sick this winter.
Top five tips for keeping ahead of the flu
- Get a flu shot If you didn’t get a flu shot during the fall, it’s not too late! A flu shot is the number one thing you can do to protect yourself from getting the flu. Additionally, this year’s shot seems to be effectively protecting against the correct strain. So if you had any doubts, banish them and get your shot!
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Avoid alcohol, which slows your metabolism and serves only to dehydrate your system. Pilots often point out that the biggest factor in travel-related illnesses is the extremely dry air on airplanes, which serves to dehydrate mucous membranes and reduce their effectiveness at warding off disease. The same can be true in the office. At the office, keep a 16- or 32-ounce bottle of water handy at all times, and be sure to drink the recommended 6-8 glasses of water a day.
- Wash your hands Wash your hands multiple times per day to keep germs at bay. It’s a simple task that goes a long way to protect you from cold and flu germs. If you don’t have access to soap and water all the time, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you hate the dryness of frequent washing, keep a bottle of your favorite lotion on your desk, like I do. In fact, my office mates often pop by in the winter for a dose of moisturizer and a quick chat!
- Avoid sick people This may be hard in the workplace when you’re forced to be around people who are coughing and hacking, but do your best to keep your distance and try not to shake hands. Mythbusters did a wonderful episode on how to avoid sharing one’s cold/flu germs by touching elbows rather than shaking hands and coughing into your elbow rather than your hand or a tissue.
- Keep your surroundings clean Doorknobs, phone receivers and other common objects are top transmitters for cold and flu germs. Keep those things clean by wiping them down frequently with a clean, sanitizing cloth. This is particularly important for those of us who are in the customer service industry where headsets are used on a daily basis. Typically, all agents have their own head-sets in order to minimize the spreading of germs, however, by not cleaning your own equipment daily, you continue to expose yourself to the germs on your head-set. Daily cleaning is essential, and cleaning several times a day can be helpful if you’ve got a cold.
Although these steps are helpful, sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can still get sick, so what’s the best course of action when you feel symptoms coming on? Talk to your doctor about the many anti-viral medicines and supplements that can help shorten a flu or cold and alleviate your symptoms.
In case of flu, stay home
If you are sick, STAY HOME! If you have the option of working from home, that’s great; do it. If not, take a sick day (or two) and get well before coming back to work. One of the best ways to NOT spread the flu or severe cold is to stay home with your sickness and get yourself well. It’s always better to take a couple of days off to heal rather than fight through it and encourage the germs to hang on for weeks.
Here’s to a happy and healthy winter!