Open air offices are wonderful for many reasons: the comradery of addressing your colleague over the cubicle wall, the light and airy high ceilings, the white noise of open space, and the spreading of germs.
The other day, as I worked in such an open-air space, the room was full of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and blowing noises and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I caught the plague going around the office. After about my 50th “Gesundheit” to surrounding colleagues I decided to get proactive. Running to the store on my break I picked up anti-bacterial wipes, cold medicine, and, my personal stalwart remedy, chicken soup.
Wash your hands frequently
The number one thing to do, and do frequently, when a virus is running rampant in your office space is to wash your hands. Wash them frequently with soap and hot water for a full 20 seconds to kill germs. One way to measure time is to sing the “ABC,” or “Happy Birthday” song in your head twice through to be thorough. Germs are passed by touching surfaces, so wipe down anything you touch, and wash your hands after touching anything not wiped down. Especially wash your hands after sneezing or coughing if you cover your mouth with your hands.
Clean high-touch areas often
Once upon a time I worked in a health center, a/k/a germ factory, and the conscientious building manager sent her assistants around twice daily, wiping every doorknob, handrail, and light switch with cleaning solution. At least that happened until our building manager fell in the path of budget cuts. It was a good lesson, and most of us continued the practice on our own to stay healthy.
Sick? Stay home
If you do get sick, do everyone a favor and stay home. Spreading illness is a major deterrent to productivity. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as making all your deadlines only to have them stuck in liminality while the final approver is sidelined by sickness. Even worse is missing your own deadlines because you’ve fallen ill.
Attack illness early
If your throat starts to tickle, or you start feeling unusually tired, attack early, before it really takes hold. While nothing cures a cold, some remedies can lessen its length or effects. Some people swear by Zinc, Echinacea, or Vitamin C. My two go-tos when I feel a cold coming on are rest and chicken soup with garlic. And when I say garlic, I’m not talking about a clove, I usually stir in a fourth to a half a cup of minced garlic. Homemade soup is the best, but when I am feeling under the weather canned will do. The garlic opens the circulatory system and helps flush out toxins. Eating that and sleeping usually help me conquer any illness.
Cover your mouth, but not with your hands
Always remember to keep your germs to yourself as much as possible and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. It is best to cough or sneeze into your elbow, or shoulder. If you use a tissue, discard it. Reusing balled up tissues that you keep in your pockets is like developing your own little breeding farms.
Staying healthy is an office environment is possible when everyone follows these sensible guidelines, and office productivity will be boosted as a result!
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