With the weather getting colder, you’ll start hearing sniffles from the cubicle down from you. Then one or two people will be off sick. Before you know it, you’ve got their cold and have to struggle through to get work done yourself. Working when ill, especially near the end of the month, can be the worst; the time when you can’t think about anything with your head feeling like it’s been inflated to the size of a small melon.
Unfortunately, when you see the same people everyday in an enclosed environment, pass around the same documents and share the same equipment, germs are going to spread. So below are some tips if you work in an office and don’t want to get sick:
1) Getting to Work
If you commute to work using public transport, this is the worst start to the day. If you can, drive yourself in to avoid being pushed up against people on the tube or having someone sneeze in your face on a crowded bus. If you have to take public transport, try and keep your mouth covered with a scarf, or tucked into your chest. You’ll probably also be getting up early, when the sun isn’t quite out, so keep yourself nice and warm with a winter jacket, gloves, hat and even some thermals.
2) When You Come In
When you come in, the first thing you should do is wipe down your keyboard, mouse and desk with anti-bacterial wipes. While your office is probably cleaned every night, you can’t say for sure how thorough a job they’ve performed. Try and avoid letting others use your computer, equipment and stationery throughout the day. If they borrow a pen, let them keep it. Ideally, your office will have alcohol-rub dispenser on the way in, but if they don’t, bring in your own for personal use, or if you’re generous, one for the whole office (perhaps clear it with HR first, who may do it themselves).
3) Lunch and Breaks
Try and stay indoors rather than take breaks outside in the cold or with the smokers. When it comes to lunch, ideally you don’t want to use the kitchen facilities apart from the fridge to store your lunch which should be well-wrapped. If you suspect that something is going round, make an excuse and eat lunch elsewhere rather than sit where everyone is. If there’s a place nearby where you can sit in the warm, do that; being a bit anti-social is better than missing a day of work and getting sick yourself.
4) Managing Others
If someone you manage or supervise seems like they’re ill or like they’re about to be ill, and you have the power to do so, recommend that they go home sick or not come in the next day. It’s best to stop anything from spreading to others and if they’re ill, they’re not going to be working at their best. If they can, they can complete tasks at home and correspond through email. Of course, you can’t send everyone home but if they aren’t working on anything of too high a priority or their work can be covered easily by someone else, then this would be better.
5) How to Sneeze or Cough
Rather than sneeze into the atmosphere openly or into your hands and then continuing to type, sneeze into the inside of your arm. This is called the “Vampire Sneeze” or “Dracula Sneeze” because it mimics the famous character’s pose of hiding his face into his cloak. It’s considered the best way to sneeze and still prevent the spread of germs. Keep a hankie handy and be conscious of your sniffing around others. You may not realise it, but in a quiet office, listening to the person working next to you sniff every other minute can be a bit annoying. Pop outside or to the loo and get it out of your system.
There are other things you can do anyway to prevent the spread of bacteria anywhere. These include things you should do anyway, like always washing your hands after going to the loo (especially the fingernails, which is where the most bacteria builds up over the course of a day) and making sure you have fruit & veg in your diet consistently.. Additional lengths you may want to take can include taking vitamins like Vitamin C, or supplements like cinnamon supplements, which can boost your immune system and resistance to the flu.
Paul is currently working alongside a health and wellness company who specialise in natural treatments like cinnamon for health purposes as well as for cooking. He works in a small office environment, so knows about taking extra precautions to prevent himself from getting ill in these small spaces.