Fall is right around the corner. It is a season of crisp fresh air, bright orange pumpkins, blazing colors, hay rides and corn mazes. However, Autumn also marks the beginning of another season entirely; flu season. Are you prepared for the hosts of germs and viruses poised to descend on homes, offices, and schools? Don’t let sickness keep your employees from work. Is your workplace ready to keep the flu out, and workers in?
What Constitutes Flu Season?
Influenza season (i.e. flu season) does not have a specific ending and starting date. However, data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that flu activity increases during the months of October through March. According to these statistics, the month with the most recorded cases of the flu from 1982-2016 is February. December, March, and January follow close behind.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the cold winter temperatures that can cause the flu. However, cold temperatures do play a part in the increased prevalence of influenza during winter months. It is believed that the Influenza virus can survive more adequately in cold, dry air. During the summer months, when humidity is high, the virus does not spread as well. However, as temperatures grow colder and the air does not hold as much moisture, virus carrying microbes can travel easier and spread further.
In addition to the moisture levels in the air, Human habits change also during the winter months. Due to cold, snow, and unpleasant conditions, many people opt to stay indoors. Heated buildings and homes seal windows, doors, and other natural air flow to contain warmth. Any area where multiple people are gathered can be contaminated with germs very quickly, and contribute to the spread of viruses like influenza.
The Flu and the Workplace
Not only does the flu effect individual workers and disrupt their lives, but it also has a significant impact on America’s workplaces as a collective unit. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that nearly 5 billion dollars is lost annually due to the direct costs of Influenza. These ‘direct’ costs include things such as visits to doctors’ offices, medication, and hospital stays. Not only are the direct costs of the flu season straining budgets, but the indirect costs are just as staggering. The NIOSH estimates that over 110 million workdays are lost every year, due to Influenza. Consequently, there is over 7 billion dollars lost in productivity.
Keeping yourself Healthy
The costs of influenza on an individual basis are harsh enough. Nobody enjoys having the flue, missing work, and losing time for other activities. However, multiplied over an entire workforce, the flu can wreak havoc on a company’s productivity, efficiency, and morale. Additionally, the flu season carries right through the holiday season; the busiest time of year for many industries. It is paramount that employees remain healthy, happy, productive, and motivated. So, here are some ways to keep your workplace healthy this flu season:
- Get vaccinated: Getting your annual flu shot is a tremendous way to safeguard yourself against Influenza. Employers: consider bringing in a nurse, local healthcare worker, or other medical professional to administer vaccinations to interested employees.
- Sleep! Adequate sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining your health. Sleep allows for your immune system to recharge, and strengthen your resolve against invaders. Such as the flu. Sleep will keep you strong. Get enough of it.
- Cover your Mouth: We’ve all heard this one before, but it still must be said. When you sneeze or cough be sure to cover your mouth with a tissue. If none are available, avoid covering your mouth with your hand. Instead, sneeze or cough into your arm. Using your hand to cover your mouth simply transfers germs onto your fingers. This can help the flu spread more quickly!
- Wash your Hands: Yes, wash them after you use the bathroom, but don’t stop there. Wash your hands frequently. Wash them before you eat. Wash them after you eat. Wash them when you are bored, and wash them when you aren’t bored. Don’t make excuses, keep your hands clean.
- Hands away from your mouth! One of the easiest ways to contract the Influenza virus is by transferring it to your mouth. This gives it a direct passageway into your body. Do your best to keep your hands away from your mouth. Avoid biting your nails, touching your lips, and picking your teeth with your finger. When you eat, use silverware. Oh, and wash your hands!
Keeping the workplace healthy comes down to one thing: individuals. The best way to keep the workplace healthy is to have the individuals in that workplace committed to keeping the flu OUT. If everyone is on board and is doing their part, then your workplace will stay healthy this flu season.
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