Now that we are back to work after two mid-week holidays, we have a warning for you: Your office is out to get you.
As flu season is at a feverish pace — and, in Florida, off to its fastest start in years — offices are a “breeding ground for disease,” according to Stratus Building Solutions.
The nationwide firm — which has offices in Miami, Palm Beach County and Tampa — provides commercial cleaning and janitorial services to offices.
Stratus conducted a survey that noted a lot of, well, gross things your officemates are doing — not you, of course. Among them: not washing their hands after using the restroom (61% of the respondents ratted out their coworkers for this habit) or working out in the office gym and coming back to their desk all stinky.
More than half said they use a paper towel or handkerchief to open office doors because they think the office is dirty.
And it’s costing us in dollars, too.
According to the CDC Foundation, “the flu costs American workers more than $87 billion annually and results in 17 million lost workdays each flu season.” The cost is about $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.
WHERE FLU GERMS THRIVE IN OFFICES
▪ Elevator buttons. If you aren’t taking the stairways to boost your health, just think how many people punch the floor button. After wiping their itchy noses.
▪ Doorknobs and handles.
▪ Office items like the copier machine, books and ledgers we share, pens and staplers.
▪ The office kitchen. Beyond that stinky refrigerator every office seems to have, we all touch the microwave, the vending machines, water coolers, sink sponges and food and containers touched by colleagues. Speaking of which ...
HOW TO PREVENT THE OFFICE FLU
▪ Get a flu shot, the CDC urges.
Florida is one of 45 states, including Puerto Rico, where flu activity is increasing in the most recent CDC report released Monday, WebMD noted.
Nationwide there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu so far this season — 27 of which were children and three of them were in Florida. The children who died were not vaccinated this season, according to the Florida Department of Health.
▪ Stay home if you’re feeling funky — and we don’t mean James Brown funky. We mean run-down, sniffly and achey.
“People are the most contagious during the first two to three days of contracting a cold and about five days after being infected with the flu — even before symptoms develop,” Stratus said.
▪ Put a barrier between you and the flu.
This can be as simple as using a paper towel or your shirttail when opening or closing a door in the office.
Do the same when pressing the elevator button.
▪ Avoid touching your face, eyes or rubbing your nose.
▪ Don’t stress out. Hydrate by drinking more water and get adequate sleep.
You don’t want to look too much like a germ-o-phobe by walking around with paper towels every time your boss calls you into her office or with your fingers in your shirt tail in the elevator. So if you happen to touch things, try not to stress too much. Stress weakens the immune system. Just make sure you don’t increase your odds of catching the flu by rubbing your face after touching office supplies and heed the next warning:
One of the most germ-ridden places is the top of the soap dispenser in the bathrooms. This doesn’t mean avoid touching those dispensers, but make sure to wash your hands in warm water for about 20 seconds and use the soap.
Stratus promoted the idea of “Fight the Flu Kits” in offices and these would include new pens to replace the old, germ-infested pens we use ever day. Also, the availability of cleaning wipes — like those you increasingly see at grocery stores near the shopping carts (a big germ bed). And hand sanitizer to use since we do things like shake hands, share documents and supplies, and eat in common areas.