Cold, Flu, and the Open Office Floor Plan: Time for a Change?

All too often, the real effect of open office spaces is an irritable, stressed-out workforce and an increase in sick days, a situation where constant noise leaves many employees feeling tired and overloaded. Add germs that run rampant with no wall to stop them, and your company’s productivity could plummet when cold and flu season arrives.

Creating a Wellness Program and Wellness Room

Approximately 83% of employees feel their employers should ensure their mental and physical well-being in the workplace. According to the Staples 2019 Canadian Workplace Survey, just 39% of employers offer a wellness program, and only 25% have a dedicated wellness room for workers who aren’t feeling well.

A robust wellness program involves activities that promote employees’ health and wellness. Many companies also designate quiet areas for employees to destress or take some quiet time if they feel sick. This can be particularly important in an open office plan.

Tips to Prevent Colds and Flu at the Office

Employees who are already ill should work from home or take time off to prevent others from getting sick too. Here are other tips that can decrease the spread of colds and flu:

  • Wash your hands several times a day with soap and warm water. Germs survive on surfaces up to 48 hours.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when moving from one area to another.
  • Disinfect your telephone and keyboard every day.
  • When you cough, cover your mouth and sneeze into a tissue, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes to keep germs out of your body
  • If you’re sick, stay home.
  • Consider taking the annual flu shot to help prevent contracting the flu.

The government produces Weekly Influenza Reports to help you determine what your level of risk is. However, the best way to assess your risk is to listen to your coworkers. If you work in an office and something is going around, you’ll hear a lot more coughing and sneezing. That’s the time to take action, including working from home more frequently, if that’s an option.

By using common sense and talking about your concerns to your company leaders, you can encourage them to develop policies and procedures that keep everyone safe and more productive.

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