While the influenza virus is present year-round throughout the United States, the peak months for flu activity are consistently December through March, with influenza activity normally beginning in October and November. While the risk of severe complications and death resulting from the flu is significantly higher for individuals 65 and older, the flu affects everyone — a Center for Disease Control (CDC) report of the annual flu burden from 2010 through 2020 estimated between 9 million and 41 million flu-related illnesses and 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations annually.
The flu poses a serious threat to employee health and workplace productivity. With public health officials anticipating a more intense flu season for the coming years, proper sanitation and disinfecting measures are as important as ever to prevent flu outbreaks in your workplace and to protect your employees and their families.
How to Prepare Your Office for Flu Season
Beyond the risk of severe illness and hospitalization for employees, even the mildest of flu seasons can wreak havoc on employers’ ledgers — the relatively tame flu season of 2015 and 2016 accounted for close to $6 billion in employer losses nationwide due to health care costs and lost productivity.
The best method to minimize the impact of the flu in your workplace is to be proactive. Take steps to prepare your office for flu season, while developing courses of action to prevent the flu from spreading in your workplace in the case of infection.
Develop an Office Cleaning Plan
If you want to successfully prevent the flu in your workplace, it’s crucial to prepare an office cleaning plan that meets the needs of your office and can be regularly performed for optimal results. Below are some crucial steps to effective flu prevention in the workplace.
1. Choose the Right Cleaning Materials
While simple cleaning with soap and water is a crucial step in removing the dust and dirt in which viruses and bacteria live, it should be noted that it only removes these surface contaminants and pathogens — it does not kill them. To kill bacteria and viruses, use a disinfectant after general cleaning and follow the directions for proper application.
2. Know the Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing
Knowing the difference between these terms is crucial when it comes to developing your office cleaning plan, as knowledge of these terms is vital in selecting the proper cleaning supplies. You can think of cleaning as removing visible contaminants in the form of dust, dirt, etc., with soap and water or dust cloths. While cleaning doesn’t kill viruses and bacteria, it physically removes them from surfaces and helps reduce their volume.
Sanitizing reduces the number of bacteria and germs to safe levels, which may vary depending on the context. However, sanitizing does not kill all bacteria and viruses. Disinfecting is the process of killing viruses and bacteria, and is the most significant factor in maintaining a healthy environment. See our blog post to learn more about the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.
3. Clean High Touch Surfaces
Critical to preventing the flu in your office is targeting the right surfaces to clean and disinfect. Your cleaning plan should not attempt to cover every single surface in your workplace — rather, focus your cleaning and disinfection efforts on the areas that receive the highest touch-traffic day-to-day, such as doorknobs, faucets, light switches, microwave buttons, elevator buttons and any communally used appliances or technology.
4. Clean High-Traffic Surfaces Regularly
Once you’ve determined what areas to target, be sure to clean and disinfect them regularly — generally, the flu virus is known to live on surfaces with the potential to infect individuals for up to 48 hours, which makes daily sanitization a necessity.
5. Keep Cleaning Supplies In Stock and Accessible
To effectively execute your office cleaning plan and mitigate the spread of the flu virus, all necessary cleaning supplies should be kept fully stocked and in easily accessible locations.
Often, it’s helpful to record the amount of cleaning supplies necessary for daily cleaning as specified in your plan and prepare your monthly orders based on a number slightly higher than the daily average to ensure adequate supply. Additionally, keeping necessary materials in intuitive locations such as bathroom cabinets and supply closets helps ensure daily cleanings will not be missed due to the inability to locate supplies.
6. Hire a Janitorial or Sanitation Service
While daily cleaning plans are often practical for individual offices, classrooms or small businesses, contracting an outside provider can help employees focus on their primary job responsibilities while also ensuring qualified sanitation professionals are responsible for keeping your workplace clean.
If you decide to contract out your cleaning services, be sure to select an organization certified with industry standards to ensure proper sanitation knowledge. Specialized facilities such as those in the industrial and medical fields often require certifications, but general cleaning services do not always have to conform to those standards. Be sure to look for ISSA-certified janitorial and sanitation services when making your decision.
Encourage Healthy Habits to Prevent Disease Spread
Developing an office cleaning plan is an excellent way to prevent and mitigate the spread of the flu in your workplace, but for the best results, encourage your team to take advantage of preventative health measures and maintain healthy habits to ensure a strong immune system.
Healthy habits you can promote to prevent the spread of the flu include:
- Encouraging flu shots: Easily the most effective way to prevent contracting the flu, or protecting against severe infection, promote the influenza vaccine to protect the health of employees and reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. On-site vaccination clinics are a highly effective way to encourage worker vaccination and reduce time-off for travel to a third-party destination. Many healthcare providers offer on-site vaccine administration with no additional cost. Additionally, many pharmacies offer flu vaccines at no charge.
- Promoting healthy lifestyle choices: Lifestyle choices play a huge role in immune system strength, so offering education and incentives to encourage healthy behavior can play an important part in keeping your employees healthy and protected from the flu. Whether it’s offering healthy snacks in the workplace, resources for healthy eating, gym perks or programs for smoking cessation, anything helps.
- Allowing sick employees to stay home: With the full realization of remote work at our fingertips, encourage employees feeling sick to stay home, even if they feel up to a full day’s work. If remote work is not an option for your industry, exercising caution is always a best practice when it comes to flu prevention.
Hire National Janitorial Solutions to Clean Your Office Space
If you want to keep your organization protected during flu season, choose the right cleaning service. National Janitorial Solutions’ proprietary AmplifyClean sanitation service utilizes the Clorox Total 360 cleaning system to make efficient and effective surface cleaning possible, killing 44 organisms including MRSA, norovirus and influenza in under two minutes while eliminating 99.99% of bacteria in five seconds.
Create a safer, healthier work environment for your employees by choosing a cleaning service that ensures maximum protection. Quality service is our priority, and we’re always developing better cleaning solutions to ensure you always get the clean you deserve.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help your office prepare for flu season.