A third of Britons have knowingly been to work with an infectious illness
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A third of Britons have knowingly been to work with an infectious illness

Office workers are putting themselves and their colleagues at risk, with 31% admitting they have gone to work knowing they had an infectious illness. The survey was carried out on 3,000 employees by office supply chain Staples in an effort to raise awareness about staying healthy at work. The majority (61%) of those who came in while sick cited having ‘too much work’ as the main reason for doing this. Others said it was because they weren’t able to work remotely (28%).

To help prevent the spread of illness, there are a few things you can implement in your office to help employees stay happy and healthy.

How to prevent the spread of illness…

Worrisome Washing

The survey found that one in seven workers don’t use soap when they have used the toilet, and one in 50 don’t wash their hands at all. According to the data, men are less likely than women to wash their hands or use soap, despite the severe risks posed by non-washing.

It can seem like a challenge encouraging employees to wash their hands, but there are a few things you can do which may help. Placing signs on bathroom sinks can act as a reminder to wash your hands, and ensuring there is enough hand wash available is also crucial.

Desk Dangers

Most people (72%) have fallen into the habit of eating at their desk, which can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, especially on the keyboard.

Keyboards are often cited as being dirtier than a toilet, meaning that if you eat while typing you could be exposing yourself to a variety of harmful bacteria. Germs like E.coli, Pseudomonas and MRSA, can all be found in the workplace. Of the genders, females are the biggest desk-eating culprits, with 74% of women eating at their desks compared to 68% of men.

Encourage your team to take their lunch break away from their screens to re-focus their mind. Not only will this help cut back on the eating over their keyboard, it will actually help improve their concentration and productivity. You could create a fun area in your workplace, if there’s space, to act as a lunchtime seating area or you could form a lunchtime walking club to get people up and out of their seats and into the fresh air.

Monica Mauri, VP, Head of HR Staples Europe, commented on the findings: “What we’re seeing is a worrying number of workers who feel the need to come into the office when sick. Employers need to make employees aware of the importance of staying home when ill, especially when it’s infectious.”

“There is also a pronounced trend in people eating at their desks. Keyboards and workstations are actually teeming with harmful bacteria, so it’s recommended that they are cleaned on a regular basis.”

Other tips you could implement around your office to combat the spread of illness is give each employee their own bottle of antibacterial hand wash, encourage them to regularly clean their workstation and above all, advise them to stay home and rest if they are unwell.

References: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7377002.stm, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/mrsa/, http://www.ijcmas.com/vol-3-4/Kausar%20Malik%20and%20Nabiha%20Naeem.pdf