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January 29, 2014
Tips for keeping employees healthy and productive this winter

Workplace absence costs employers more than $40 billion a year. How can you eliminate the illnesses and injuries that threaten your people, your productivity, and your profitability? Keep reading to find out.

Employees at U.S. companies miss more than a half billion days of work each year. It’s a costly problem in terms of direct expenses like lost time, reduced productivity, and providing and training replacement workers. Then there are indirect costs like reduced morale and presenteeism, which refers to productivity loss when sick employees come to work instead of staying home.

One of the biggest causes of absence is infection-related illness, especially in the winter when flu is common. According to Donald Bucklin, MD, of the occupational health provider U.S. HealthWorks, the problem is autoinoculation, or infecting oneself.

“That means, for example, that somebody has their hand on the escalator handrail, then they rub their nose with that hand. Or they touch their cell phone and then scratch their eyes.” Bucklin advocates a relatively simple strategy—never touch your face without first washing your hands or cleaning them with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Employees should take responsibility for cleaning their own workspace and not assume that the cleaning crew has done due diligence. Phones are rarely cleaned or disinfected, and cleaners tend to ignore other objects on the desktop because it is considered an employee’s personal space. Encourage staff to use disinfecting wipes around the office and workstation. Make wipes and hand sanitizers readily available.

Lifestyle also plays a part. Eating nutritious food, getting enough rest and exercise, and minimizing caffeine and stress help keep the immune system strong and better able to ward off germs.

These tips will help keep your employees healthy and productive

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick colleagues, customers, and others.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then toss the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash hands frequently and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
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