SMB Health: 3 Tips to Avoid the Flu Virus at your SMB

Monday, November 12, 2012
Posted by Brawlin Melgar

In a given calendar year, the flu virus is responsible for approximately 70 million missed workdays and an estimated $10 billion in lost office productivity.

Recent survey results also show that employees could do more to keep the workplace healthy.

For example: half of office workers don’t clean their workspaces regularly and are unaware of the dirtiest surfaces in the office. With a smaller workforce that typically works in closer quarters, the need for improved sanitation is necessary. Simple office solutions, from bottles of hand sanitizer to disinfectant wipes, can keep workers healthy. 

Nearly 80 percent of office workers polled come to work even when they know they are sick.(Source:3rd Annual Flu Season Survey from Staples)  More than two-thirds return to work when they are still contagious, putting coworkers’ health and business productivity at risk.

Three Tips to Help Avoid the Flu Virus at your Office

1. Stock up on Cleaning Supplies: Nearly half of office workers surveyed request specific items be provided by employers, such as sanitizing wipes, touch-free restroom fixtures, waterless hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap in restrooms and break rooms. Survey results show break rooms need special attention, as most workers aren’t aware of the hidden germs lurking there.

2. Educate Your Employees: The similarities between last year’s survey results and this year’s indicate that office workers are still unsure how to best fight the flu. Educate your staff about how often to clean their desks, how long they should stay home when sick and crucial areas in the office that need to be frequently disinfected, so your business can prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses.

3. Consider telecommuting for sick employees: Employers may want to consider implementing a telecommuting program – or encourage use of an existing program – as a way to help address employees coming into the office when sick. Of those respondents whose company offers a telecommuting option, nearly half take advantage of the option when sick to avoid spreading germs in office.

Survey data shows office workers continue to make avoidable mistakes that fuel the spread of germs:

·        51 percent of employees only clean their desks once a week or less, even though germs can live on surfaces for up to three days, especially on the keyboard – typically one of the dirtiest personal workspace items.

·        25 percent believe that door knobs/handles are the dirtiest places in the office, while only 6 percent recognize that the break room sink is actually the dirtiest, followed by the office microwave, which only 8 percent selected.

·        65 percent feel the number of days necessary to be out of the office with the flu is one to three days and often return to work contagious, as the flu virus may be contagious for one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Survey findings also revealed that nearly half of workers cited their concern about completing work as the reason they don’t stay home sick. More than a quarter of respondents come to work to avoid using a sick day, even though a majority of those surveyed indicated their average productivity level while sick was only around 50 percent.

40 percent of managers and their staff are not taking responsibility for cleaning employee workspaces. Essentially, no one is cleaning their desks.

More than half of respondents answered they either don't think about it or barely increase time spent cleaning (between 0 – 10 percent more of their time) during flu season.

According to managers, some of the top challenges in keeping a building clean and healthy are:

·        More employees working in the same or smaller space (53 percent).

·        Not enough staff to adequately clean (46 percent).

·        A decrease in budget for cleaning products (21 percent) with half of respondents citing that they are unable to provide hand sanitizer and 40 percent unable to provide tissues for employees.

About the survey:
Staples conducted an online survey of more than 150 office workers and 100 Managers at organizations of all sizes across the U.S. The survey, conducted in September 2012, asked a series of questions about hygiene in the workplace and flu knowledge.