February 14, 2012

Avoiding germs in the workplace

February is the height of flu season in the northern hemisphere. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy? Instead of pulling from my work experiences and observations, today's post comes to you from my growing up with a microbiologist mother (microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms including but not limited to bacteria and viruses).

Tips for preventing catching/spreading illness

Wash your hands. OFTEN

This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do. We use our hands for a lot! Hand shakes, eating (for foods that don't require utensils), opening doors, typing emails on the computer, playing Angry Birds on the phone, etc. You may be the only one who touches your computer or phone but who knows how many people have touched those doorknobs at work? Avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently! With lathered soap and water (hand sanitizer is not as effective).

Don't share food/drinks or any personal items

"It's ok, I'm not sick." Well, maybe. Illnesses are often contagious a day or so before the carrier even starts to feel sick and some people with a virus might never have any symptoms (lucky ducks!). So, to be safe, do not just discriminate against the red-nosed and the sniffly. Everyone's a suspect here.

Play it safe, even if you got a flu shot

Flu shots are all fine and dandy if you got one but, here's the thing, it takes some time to make a vaccine. So before the flu season even starts, scientists have to make a prediction about which strains are going to be the most prevalent this year. Basically, they have to go off of studies of current patterns and trends... like weather forecasters (and, you know, they don't always get it right). Additionally, flu vaccines aren't 100% guaranteed to save you from the strains they're meant to protect against either.

Avoid touching your face

People might think you're a little weird if you run to the bathroom every time you touch something (and will probably get offended if you do so right after shaking their hands). There's no need to be germophobic. Just try to avoid touching your face without washing your hands first.

If you do get sick, stay home!

Managers are generally very understanding of this and appreciate you keeping your germs as far away from them as possible. Just make sure to call or email your manager and any coworkers who may be affected by your absence.

Wash your hands.

It's so important, I listed it twice. Wash your hands. Frequently. With soap and water. Lather the soap first and make sure to actively wash your hands for roughly 15 seconds. Personally, I don't use antibacterial soap because flu's and the common cold are all viral (not bacterial) and you risk killing the good bacteria as well (yes, some bacteria helps us!) but if you like it then you should know that the soap needs to be lathered on your hands for 2 minutes before washing it off in order for the antibacterial components to be effective.

Stay healthy!

Katie Hazard | Digital Artist, User Experience Designer
khazard@internlikearockstar.com | @katie_hazard
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