With cold and flu season in full swing, companies are being stretched thin when employees come down with the many dreaded ailments sweeping the country. Workplaces are breeding grounds for viruses, as they often get passed from one employee to another. Because the Milwaukee community is already seeing the effects of lower worker productivity during the cold and flu season, it is important to implement workplace precautions to combat viruses, help prevent the spread of germs in the office, and prevent colds and flu as much as possible.
Well City Milwaukee, a coalition of local employers focused on workplace wellness, led by the City of Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC), and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), stresses the importance of employee wellness, especially during cold and flu season, to prevent employees from being hit hard by this year’s common viruses, and to help employers stay productive throughout this time.
Here are a few examples of what Well City Milwaukee member employers are encouraging and taking action on, to maintain a healthy workplace in the peak of cold and flu season:
- Stay hydrated – For many individuals, caffeine is an essential part of the workday, but it can lead to dehydration which makes your body more prone to illness. Consider switching to green tea and drinking plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Alcohol is also a contributing factor to dehydration, so be sure to limit your intake to ensure your body is healthy enough to fend off viruses.
- Practice simple procedures – Cough into your elbow and sneeze into your sleeve. Also, remember to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and use hand sanitizer often, especially after touching items and areas prone to germs. For example, at the Medical College of Wisconsin hand sanitizer “stations” are strategically placed at major hallway intersections and in large gathering spaces throughout the facility.
- Keep workspaces clean and sanitized – Germs spread rapidly, so keep frequently-used office items clean and sanitized. Items such as microwaves, door handles and phones are breeding grounds for germs and viruses. Encourage employees and coworkers to sanitize personal workspaces and keyboards.
- Stay home – If you are ill, stay home. Managers should encourage employees to stay home when they are ill to prevent the spread of germs to others and allow their team to be more productive throughout the season. According to John Horky, the “HR Guy” at Kahler Slater, just about everyone has the capacity to work effectively from home for brief periods since much of their work is in “virtual space.”
- Promote wellness – Start a wellness newsletter and/or E-mail blast to provide wellness tips and motivation to maintain healthy lifestyles for employees. At SF Analytical Labs, awareness and educational posters inform employees of prevention tips. Regular wellness updates and tips will encourage wellness practices, as well as demonstrate the company’s interest in employees’ overall health and wellness. At Northwestern Mutual, the onsite health clinic provides direct access for employees to health professionals for their specific health needs.
These are just a few ways to combat illness during this year’s cold and flu season, keeping employees healthy and productive. These preventative measures encourage workplace wellness and work towards a broader goal of creating a more vibrant and productive workforce.
Janet McMahon is the executive director of Well City Milwaukee, which challenges local businesses to work together toward building healthier communities, starting in the workplace. For more information, visit www.wellcitymilwaukee.org.