I just spent two weeks in bronchial hell. You see, I'm one of those lucky people who seems to catch everything that's "going around." If I'm standing downwind of someone who sneezes, I'll come down with what they have. It's for this reason that, before I started my own company, I hated the dependable employee.
You know the one I mean. I'm talking about Mister or Miss come in to work with or stick out the workday with "just a low grade fever," or "just a cough that sounds like a seal being abused," or "just this sinus thing that's making me sneeze on all the community use phones." For the inexperienced manager, there's a sense of admiration initially for this employee. They're such a little trooper! That admiration fades, however, over the next three weeks as your team systematically comes down with the same ailment that the little trooper brought in to share, causing massive losses in productivity and staffing costs.
So why do we go to work sick? Well, to start with, we have a limited number of personal days. For a lot of companies, if you are ill, and run through your allotted paid sick days, the next step is to start sucking from your vacation time. Talk about a great vacation. You went to see toilet land and met Captain NyQuil. What a way to recharge your batteries.
Next, there is the social pressure of work. Maybe we have a big project or deadline that's looming. Could it be Month End Close? 7 Turns that have to all be done in 3 days? Resident party this week? Whatever it is, we decide it's more important than nipping whatever bug we've got. Just one more day at work, maybe just a half day. We have to get caught up. Also on the cue of social pressure, we don't want to let down our teammates. When we're not there, they have to pick up the slack for us, and that's not fair.
If you are one of these very dependable employees, please consider the repercussions of your actions before you come to work in the morning. No one is telling you to stay home with a case of the sniffles and abuse the sick days policy, but I am asking you not to force me to spend MY sick days. If you're contagious, you probably know it. Call in sick.
To keep illness from spreading in your offices this flu season, I've got a few tips for you.
- Antibacterial lotion - Killing the germs is important, but using straight Purell can dry out your staff's hands, leading to cracked skin, which is no fun at all. Purell makes a lotion form of their gel, or you can find some great scented antibacterial lotions at Bath and Body Works, picking a smell that goes with the season for your office.
- Follow those signs in the bathrooms of every public place and, for the love of Tony Danza, COVER YOUR COUGH! I swear, I thought that this was something parents taught their children to do naturally, but I've seen more adults in elevators unapologetically hack on the back of the people in front of them lately than I would have expected. And please cough to your elbows people, not on the hands you're going to use to welcome a future resident. Your flu is not the free gift with tour that you're offering.
- Your keyboard is not your friend during flu season. Because the small crevices make an ideal breeding ground for germs and because your hands go on this thing at least 100 times a day, wipe down your keyboard daily with an anti-static antibacterial wet wipe.
- Wipe down and Lysol your phone daily. You don't know who coughed on the mouth piece when you weren't looking or who might have deposited their nasty ear infection for you to catch. The phone is one of the big spreaders of office illness because human instinct with phones is that when they are ringing, we answer them, even if they aren't ours.
- Keep Kleenex on at your desk. Not only will it help you when you have a winter bout of the sniffles, but it will also allow you to subtly tell people that you don't want to catch what they've got. If someone is coughing or sneezing in front of you, offering them a Kleenex seems polite, but it also says, "Please deposit your ick here, not on my day planner."
- Fabreeze Antibacterial the carpets, drapes, and chairs in your office around lunch time. I'm so not kidding about this. That stuff not only will make your office smell better, but it reduces the chance that you'll catch the floating ick in the air. Either way, you win!
Good luck to you out there, and for those of you who have already caught the winter crud, get well soon! And don't come back to work until you do!!!