We’re heading into that special time of year — no, it’s not the holiday season. It’s the flu season. And apparently, you can expect nine out of 10 of your employees to show up when they’re sick. So they can share the joy with their healthy co-workers.
According to a recent survey from office supply giant Staples, nearly 90% of office workers come to work even when they know they are sick. That’s up from 80% last year. In 2011, the number was 60%.
The primary reason most respondents cited working through the runny noses, hacking coughs and aching joints: not wanting to fall behind on their workload (45%).
There is some positive flu news in the survey, however. Workers have a better understanding of flu prevention:
- 49% of respondents understand they are contagious with the flu virus for one day before symptoms develop and up to five-to-seven days after becoming sick, an improvement from 38% last year
- 76% of workers correctly identified the break room as the least clean spot in the office, a sharp increase from 26% last year, and
- 57% know that flu viruses can live on a hard surface up to three days, a slight increase from last year; however, 66% of employees still only clean their desks once a week or less, up from 51% last year.
Facility managers clueless?
Staples separately surveyed facilities managers to probe into the challenges they face during flu season. And only 7% of FMs identified the break room as the germiest place in the office. Also:
- 43% of FMs believe they’re responsible for the health of building occupants during flu season while 40% say it’s up to the workers themselves, and
- Less than 50% of FMs indicated that they ordered critical supplies to help prevent the spread of germs in the office, such as cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.
Asked what would be most helpful for employees to keep in mind to help prevent germs, FMs identified a wide range of preventive measures, from washing hands and not eating at desks, to covering noses/mouths when sneezing and cleaning desks using sanitizing products.
Some common-sense advice
Here’s some flu season advice from Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, writing on CBSMoneyWatch.com:
- Wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer. Bring your own from home if your office doesn’t provide it.
- Keep your computer keyboards clean.
- Clean handheld devices often (phones, tablets, etc.)
- Stay out of the break room.
- If you’re the boss, make sure your employees have sick days they can use, and encourage telecommuting if someone is able to work, but contagious. If necessary, managers can send a sick employee home.
- Get a flu shot.
- Sick employees should stay home. Period.