Avoiding Winter Illness in the Workplace

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Winter illness in the workplace can become a worrying trend during the lead up to and just after Christmas. Here are a few tips on avoiding winter illness in the workplace.

As the temperatures during these last few months of 2019 are beginning to fall, it’s likely you might notice that your attendance numbers in the office fall just as much too.

That’s because a recent report by the Office of National Statistics has uncovered that employees take most of their sick days during the Winter months.

Winter illness spreading around the workplace has become even more common recently too, as research indicates that nearly 83% of full-time office workers will still go into work even if they have caught a cold or start to feel unwell.

To help reduce the likelihood of winter illness spreading at work, we’ve compiled a few tips below.

Tips for Avoiding Winter Illness in the Workplace

Ensure Anti-Bacterial Handwash is Readily Available

No matter what environment you work in, it is a legal requirement per the Health and Safety at Work Act to provide access to Soap or Anti-Bacterial Handwash.

It may be surprising to learn then, that an estimated 30% of businesses still don’t currently supply handwash or soap to employees, thus breaking the law and putting themselves at risk of legal prosecution.

Along with these legal implications, a lack of handwash or soap in washrooms or other facilities in the workplace has been determined to be one of the root causes of the spread of germs, viruses and other illness.

Therefore, it’s also important to display on signage (in bathrooms/washrooms) that soap or anti-bacterial handwash is readily available and that employees should be using it whenever they have been handling items or have made use of washroom facilities.

Encourage Staff to Eat Meals Away from Work Desks

We’ve highlighted before the benefits of encouraging workers to step away from their desks during lunch breaks can have for ergonomics and wellbeing, but equally, it’s just as important for a worker’s health too.

Eating food whilst sat at a work desk increases the likelihood of dropping crumbs and pieces of food either on or around workspaces, which further strengthens the spread of bacteria in the environment.

To stop this issue from occurring, you should provide a designated area or a ‘breakroom’ that employees can go to during breaks and at lunch that they can eat within.

However, if this option is proving difficult to implement, you should instead allow employees to use cleaning supplies such as Desk Wipes for them to make use of on a regular basis.

Remove Dirty Cutlery/Crockery from the Workplace Environment

Another leading cause of the spread of winter illness can come down to a breeding ground for bacteria being produced by dirty/used cutlery and crockery.

One way to curb this trend is to regularly remind staff that any personal used plates, cups, bowls etc. must always be cleaned immediately after they have been used.

Additionally, you should inform staff any spillages or crumbs that have been produced by the consumption of food and drink at desks should be mopped up or disposed of immediately, as these can be likely to attract flies, insects and even smaller vermin which can again increase the risks of winter illness.

Provide Employees with Access to Tissues

A simple premise that often goes ignored, research reveals that only 8% of office workers knew or had access to facial tissues within the workplace.

Making sure that staff have access to Facial Tissues is a key component to the NHS campaign of ‘Catch It, Bin It, Kill It’, with germs spread by sneezing and coughing being another major contributor to the rise of winter illness in workplaces.

One easy way to encourage the use of facial tissues for employees who present the signs of a common cold or contagious minor illnesses is to have a large quantity box of them stored in a cupboard or drawer, ensuring that staff are aware that they are able to use them should they need to.

By providing your workplace with the appropriate Cleaning and Hygiene items, it will help to reduce the number of employees that fall ill and become unable to make it into the workplace during the winter months.

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Sam Rose

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