Has this become a familiar noise in your business lately? Autumn is here and the back to school routine and longer commuter journeys have started to feel normal once again. The problem is that the hustle and bustle of playgrounds and crowded train carriages, combined with our ever-changeable weather, tends to create a heightened risk of seasonal sickness.
It starts with one. A sneeze, a cough or a bunged-up co-worker. They look around to see if anyone has noticed until the more vocal amongst the team declares “Are you sick?!”
Poor them. They are already feeling a bit low and most likely don’t want to carry the burden of being the one that got everyone else sick.
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Sick employees at work risk infecting others, which can create bigger problems for a business. A polite reminder to all on good hygiene, such as hand over mouth when coughing and the correct disposal of tissues, can help. But what else can you do before seasonal sickness strikes out your whole team?
1. Support self-care
Although the thought may cross your mind and others may joke about it, you can’t contain or quarantine a sneezing employee. This simply wouldn’t be fair. If their symptoms continue you may want to suggest that they go home to recover.
A positive culture will allow employees to take this initiative if they are too sick to be in work. If workers are afraid to take a sick day when they are genuinely unwell, your workplace can end up suffering from what is termed ‘presenteeism’. This can cause more damage to your business in the long run.
2. Encourage healthy choices
Promoting good health and taking a preventative approach towards sickness is going to be your best bet at keeping business as usual during this time. A fridge for lunches and advice on healthy options is a low-cost way to get your employees thinking more about their choices.
Encouraging healthy habits can be as simple as providing a fruit bowl for snacking. Or holding a meeting on the move once in a while. A walk around the block can do wonders. Just make sure it’s not raining first!
3. Help to kick bad habits
Lifestyle changes can take time. It can take a few months before a habit becomes second nature, so giving something up can be a long and drawn out process.
Is an employee trying to give up smoking? A simple acknowledgment of their progress can be a great show of support. They may be more stressed than usual during this time, and so sharing some healthy ways to de-stress can also help.
4. Keep warm and well
Has the temperature dropped inside? It could be time to turn the heating back on or pull those portable heaters out of hiding. You’ll never get the perfect temperature for everyone, remember those air-con wars of summer? But you will want to make sure that it’s a reasonable temperature for working. For example, if employees sit down for most of their working day, they may be more susceptible to the cold.
5. Focus on prevention
We’re not in winter yet but it doesn’t harm to plan ahead. You can help your employees build up their resistance against seasonal sickness by offering them vouchers for flu vaccinations. Or if appropriate, invite a doctor to the workplace to provide inoculations to staff.
Think about yourself too! Your business needs you healthy and at the helm to keep an eye on things. Leading by example and encouraging employees to look out for one another will continue to make your business a happy and healthy environment for all.