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May 2020

Workplace etiquette: when to stay home with the sniffles

Written by Bakang Kganyago
Workplace Hygiene

Winter season is fast approaching and under normal circumstances this would see most of us preparing for flu season, stocking up on vitamins and getting our flu shot. This year, however, brings with it an extra hazard that we are all fully aware of now - Covid-19. I reckon that this flu season anxiety levels will be at an all time high because it will be hard for most people to spot the difference between the common cold and Covid-19, which is further complicated by the fact that some infected individuals don’t show full Covid-19 symptoms, or have minor cold-like symptoms.

Staying at home when ill is one of the things I had to learn quickly when I started working for Initial Hygiene. My boss would always encourage me to rather stay home and get better than come into the office sick - which I found rather confusing at first. She quickly made me aware, however, of the impact of what I - at the time - thought to be an “inconsequential case of the sniffles” and the effect it might have on my fellow colleagues and the productivity of the business as a whole. 

In one of our previous blogs: Absenteeism, presenteeism, and the economic impact of poor hygiene we learned that presenteeism in the workplace costs the South African economy an estimated R89 billion annually. It is therefore evident that even though we think being at home is a detriment to the business, actually going to work while sick out of sheer motivation and willingness to contribute can do a lot more harm than good, more especially with the current threat of Covid-19.

As we’ve learned over the course of the pandemic so far, illness can spread quickly through cross-contamination, hence the need for social distancing and people being urged to work from home if they have the capacity to do so. Take a look at our journey of the germ video for a reminder of how quickly germs can spread through a workplace. 

However, now that more people are going back into the workplace it is important that businesses take special care with regards to the safety of their colleagues, as the risks of Covid-19 spreading are high. It is imperative that businesses gear up the office for safety and secondly go over sick leave policy to ensure that everyone is aware of the absolute necessity of staying at home when the cold and flu like symptoms come knocking. That way businesses can ensure that employees recover fully and are ready to return to work sooner than they would have had they not stayed at home, and that they are not putting other colleagues at risk.

So next time you feel like you are coming down with a cold, remember that the true heroes are not those who work harder when feeling ill, but rather those that stay at home to recover fully. Doing so will ensure that you prevent the spread of any illness around your workplace, and to your colleagues who may then take it home to others who are more vulnerable.

We have made a quick symptoms checklist below to help guide your decision to either stay home or go to work. Checking any of these boxes is a quick indicator that you might be coming down with the flu, if you are ticking multiple boxes is would be a strong indicator that you should stay at home.

I’d also recommend you have a look at our website for more information on disinfection services and hand hygiene.

Cold symptoms checklist from Initial Hygiene

If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional medical advice from your doctor.

As the lockdown period comes to an end, make sure that your office is kitted out with these hand hygiene posters to remind everyone of the importance of hand washing. We also have a Specialist Disinfection Service which you can find out more about here on our website, or contact us for further information.

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang is a Digital Marketing Executive for Rentokil Initial. A germaphobe at heart, he's passionate about learning and sharing insights on how to defeat the enemy we cannot see. Join his journey as he writes about the impact of germs in our daily lives.

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