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Common Sense to Promote Community Health — at Work



In the immortal words of Eddard Stark, “winter is coming.” And—with it—a whole plethora of sick people tromping about the office, handing out germs as though they were speaking holiday cheer.


According to research by The Society for Human Research Management (SHRM), some 31% of polled employees reported coming to work “all of the time” while not feeling well—and another 35% reported coming “often.” In fact, only 5% of employees reported that they “never” came to work when feeling sick.


So, in short, your office is probably going to be a gross place to work. BUT, there are steps you can take to limit the spread of germs, and to improve general health.


A few simple steps might include:


  • Speak with leadership in your office, and see if there’s any interest in setting up a time or day people can be released from work to get the season’s flu vaccine (or, perhaps even look into having a service come directly to your office). According to the CDC, vaccines are “the single best way” to prevent the flu each year.


  • Keep hand sanitizer and tissues in abundant supply, and conveniently located around the office so people never have a reason to avoid using them. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can quickly kill a wide range of germs when traditional hand washing isn’t a timely or available solution. And, a sneeze into a tissue is far better than directly into shared airspace.


  • If management is willing, your business can consider accommodating remote work for employees fighting bugs. As discussed in a previous post, there are a ton of advantages to having employees work from home—at least part of the time—and avoiding shared contagions might be straw that broke the camel’s back.


These investments, while generally pretty simple to accomodate, can have a huge impact on both employee morale and your company’s bottom line. In a 2012 piece, Forbes shared research noting the true costs of poor employee health:


“The Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions, says poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year…Of that amount, 39 percent, or $227 billion is from ‘lost productivity’ from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called ‘presenteeism,’ when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best.”


With this in mind, it’s easy to see how preventative steps quickly outpace alternatives. How is your organization fighting the common cold this year?

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