If you work from an office, chances are that right this minute, you're listening to co-workers cough, sneeze or sniffle. The fall brings the start of the cold and flu season, and no matter how cautious we think we're being, the spread of flu and colds can be prolific.
The usual advice is important. Get a flu shot, make a habit of washing your hands, keep your hands away from your face and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow to make sure you keep yourself and everyone around you healthy. But are there other things you can do to stay healthy at work and stop the spread of germs?
Following these simple tips will ensure you have the best chance of enjoying the fall and winter months illness free.
A word about hand washing
Regular hand washing is the most effective way to prevent getting and spreading germs. Wash your hands with soap for about 20 seconds by rubbing your hands and rinsing with warm water. When using public washrooms use a paper towel or tissue to turn off the faucet and open the door.
Keep your workspace clean
Cold and flu viruses are not only passed along from one person to another but from surface to surface, as well. If you share a space or 'hotel' workstation take the initiative to clean items like the phone, mouse, keyboard and desk handles to stop the spread of germs. Have alcohol wipes or other sanitizer product handy as a reminder to clean these surfaces often. This is especially important if you know that colleagues who are under the weather are sharing office equipment.
Many offices have communal fruit bowls, candy bowls and snack dishes. Be mindful of how you handle shared food to ensure you aren't sharing germs at the same time. Consider offering fruit like bananas and oranges that are protected with peel. Also have a policy where shared snacks and treats must have wrappers.
Be aware of the handshake
Where possible, wash your hands before and after meetings to ensure that if you are shaking hands, you're limiting the spread of germs. Even better? If you are feeling under the weather politely refuse the handshake all together.
Keeping your germs at home and taking the time to get better can make all the difference in preventing a "snowball effect" of passing along germs in the office. If there is something that you absolutely can't miss at work consider calling in or working remotely.
Get lots of sleep
One of the most important steps to staying healthy involves sound sleep habits. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Busy professionals should work on adopting a relaxing sleep routine to help wind down and prepare their body for sleep. In addition to disconnecting from e-mails, television, computers and other electronic devices at least an hour before bed, adopting sleep promoting habits that will help you relax such as meditation, gentle stretching and a warm bath are effective. Epsom salts are high in magnesium which is a sleep promoting mineral.
Eat your greens
A well-rounded diet filled with plenty of antioxidant-rich yellow, red, blue and orange fruits and vegetables will aid in combating viruses and may even help a runny nose. And the high chlorophyll content of dark green vegetables gives the immune system a boost. Aim to get eight to 10 servings a day to keep you feeling strong, healthy and better able to fight off infection.
Learn to relax
It has been well documented that stress decreases immunity. Encourage your employer to introduce programs that promote relaxation such as a walking club, yoga classes, meditation sessions, and mindfulness training. Also take several short breaks throughout the day to stand up, stretch and walk around.
Build resiliency one step at a time
Regular exercise can help build up your resiliency to cold and flu bugs. So hit the gym or take a daily midday brisk walk. Also look for other opportunities to be active at work such as using the stairs, walking to a co-worker's desk rather than using e-mail to communicate and promoting walking meetings. Every step counts towards a healthier more resilient you.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, which also includes absence from smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking alcohol in moderation and controlling your blood pressure is your best line of defence in preventing illness and maintaining a strong and healthy immune system.
Veronica Marsden is co-president of Tri Fit (@trifitca), a developer of workplace wellness programs.