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December 2017

Got a bug? Etiquette guide - what to do and what NOT to do

Written by Nicole Horne
Employee wellness Leave a Comment

Have you ever wished that the colleague next to you would just stop sniffling? Or hoped that your coworker with his spluttering cough would rather stay at home? I’m sure most of us have had the same thoughts and feeling of disdain when it comes to colleagues who arrive at work feeling under the weather.


Perhaps you are a die-hard believer in never missing a day at the office, and will do whatever it takes to make it to work; vitamins, tissues and the whole kit of anti-flu remedies included. I do admire this spirit, and kudos to you for the go-getter attitude, but did you know that you spread germs as you go, cross contaminating areas with which other people come into contact?


The real cost of bringing germs to the office

The latter example is called “presenteeism”; i.e. when you show up for work with your bug in tow, when you should actually be recuperating at home instead. This means that - while you are ill - you continue to spread germs around the office that are then picked up by other employees as they come into contact with surfaces that contain bacteria and / or viruses.


FACT: Viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, and 3 hours on your hands!

In a previous blog, Your office is losing 100’s of days a year to absenteeism: what can you do about it?“, we discovered that a business with an average of 50 employees loses around 150 days of work due to infectious diseases. What’s even worse is that presenteeism costs businesses up to 4 times more than absenteeism, and can cost the economy approximately R48 billion per year. The impact that presenteeism can have on a company is much more costly because it negatively impacts on the quality of work that is done by employees as well as on workforce productivity levels, not to mention infecting other colleagues!


Etiquette guide: spread the love and not the germs!

Now that we know what the cost is in relation to coming to work with a bug, what exactly should you do and not do when you’ve got a bug? Below are some tips on how you can keep cross contamination and the spread of germs to a minimum.


  • Load up on vitamins and fresh produce

Be sure to stock up on vitamin c and flu medicine and be sure to load up on fresh fruits and veggies, especially when the risk of contracting flu is high or when your system is down and you are in need of an immune boost.

  • Stay home

If you feel under the weather, visit your local general practitioner and make sure that you get proper medication, and get booked off of work. Rather get proper rest and recover fully before going back work than prolonging the agony and operating at low capacity, which will make you feel even worse. You will just be wasting your time trying to focus and you’ll infect your fellow colleagues.

  • Don’t sneeze or cough into your hand

As mentioned earlier, viruses can live on your hands for up to 3 hours, so be sure to rather sneeze or cough into your elbow. Because 80% germs are spread through touch, transferring bacteria or viruses to your hands will lead to the spread of infectious diseases to those surfaces into which you come into contact. This also limits the spread of airborne diseases.

  • Make hand washing a priority

As mentioned in the previous point, the majority of germs are spread via our hands - the ultimate mode of germ transport! Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Make sure you wash your hands before and after eating, after visiting the bathroom, before touching your nose and mouth and especially after blowing your nose.

  • Don’t shake hands with anyone

If you are ill, rather avoid shaking hands with your colleagues. Rather practice alternative greetings, like the Obama fist bump or the simple nod and smile. Avoid the snack platter in the break room or the communal water dispenser and put yourself in others’ shoes. How grossed out would you feel if you witnessed a co-worker sneezing into their hands and then selecting a biscuit from the cookie tray?

  • Keep hand sanitser handy

Be sure to have hand sanitiser on hand. Keep it on your desk and make sure you use it regularly, since you come into contact with your keyboard, phone and mouse, you’ll want to keep cross contamination to a minimum.

We don’t always think about it, but coming to work unwell has a much bigger impact than we might think! If you must, and you really have a lot of work to get through, the happy medium is to rather stay at home and recover properly; that way the workforce will be much more productive and healthier! A few days of sick leave will benefit your workforce more than them spreading germs at the office.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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