Illnesses and infections such as influenza and norovirus are are very contagious, and can spread quickly in a workplace environment, leading to increased levels of sickness absence amongst employees.
Infection can be spread through indirect contact with a person with an illness. For example, when employees touch phones, computers, or other devices, germs can be spread from person to person with ease. Worryingly, some viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.
In work environments where many people work closely together it can seem as though the spread of these illnesses is unavoidable. However, there are things that can be done to minimise their spread, and their impact on the sickness absence levels within the company.
1. Regular hand washing
A process as simple as cleaning your hands can seriously reduce the amount of germs spread between people. Eighty per cent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, and by washing hands frequently and thoroughly, illnesses like these could be reduced.
As an employer consider educating employees about the importance of washing their hands after using the toilet, and before having lunch. The WHO provides the following infographic teaching how to properly wash your hands, and advises that the task should take as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
2. Hand santisation
Encouraging the use of hand sanitiser amongst staff can also help prevent against the spread of illness. Consider installing hand sanitiser in company WCs or distributing bottles amongst staff. Non-alcohol based hand sanitiser solutions form a barrier on hands which protect against germs and bacteria, such as norovirus, for several hours.
3. Encourage infected employees to stay at home
To avoid transmission of viruses amongst employees, it is vital that those infected with the illness don’t return to work while they are still ill. Make employees aware that for illnesses like norovirus they should not return to work for 48 hours after their symptoms have gone. Returning early could be the difference between one employee sickness absence, and a large chunk of the workforce.
4. Keep on top of cleaning
If there is an outbreak of infectious illness amongst your staff it could be wise to draft in professional cleaning staff to clean and sanitise the area asap.
Illnesses do happen, but by following these simple rules for effective hygiene your workforce could protect itself against high levels of sickness absence, and the associated impacts to your business. For further information about reducing sickness absence, contact OHBM.