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Combating cold and flu season at the office

Employees often come to work when they shouldn’t, putting co-workers and customers at risk of getting ill and affecting overall company productivity. What can you do?

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Just sick of winter

There may also be times when employees aren’t actually sick — they’re just over the winter season.

Leaving home to tackle a commute during cold, brisk weather can put a damper on an employee’s mood before they even arrive at the office, notes Truckenbrod. In addition to the cold weather, it’s also the shorter hours of daylight that can influence one’s outlook. This brutal combination can affect workers’ job productivity and motivation.

According to a recent survey by Accountemps, 38% of professionals cited winter weather as having a negative impact on their mood/happiness at work. Overall, workers ranked January as the least happy month at work.

“Professionals should be aware of their moods during the winter season and pay attention to how they’re feeling this time of year,” Truckenbrod advises. “Employees can do simple things to help overcome the winter doldrums in the office, such as staying active, being social, and setting career goals for the coming year.”

Some tips for workers to help beat the winter blues and boost mood and productivity at work:

  • Stay active — Take a brisk walk outside or hit the gym during lunch to clear your mind and sharpen your awareness to tackle the next project.
  • Be social — Take a break from your desk to connect with your co-workers. Grab a coffee with your colleague or stop by the break room to catch up on office news.
  • Set goals for the year — Now is the time to think about your career goals and what you would like to accomplish. Do you want learn a new skill or gain a new certificate?
  • Eat healthy — Stave off hunger before your next meal with a handful of nuts or fresh fruit. It’s better for your body and mind than the sugary, high-caloric selections in the vending machine.
  • Pursue professional development — As part of your new year goal setting, explore and attend seminars or workshops to advance your knowledge and gain new skills.
  • Take vacation days — Take time away from the office to re-energize so you can come back refreshed and ready to take on the next big work challenge.
  • Remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Spring and summer are around the corner. Use this time to catch up on projects or prepare for future time off.

Managers can also keep employees engaged and motived by regularly checking in with them to make sure their workloads are balanced, says Truckenbrod. Encourage professional growth by offering development and training opportunities and giving assignments that stretch employees in their skills and experience.

“Focus on the fundamentals when it comes to happiness,” Truckenbrod says. “Having pride in your organization is much more important than having a game room at work or a free lunch. Those are nice perks, but they don’t make up for dull work or a terrible corporate culture.”

If the employer allows it, telecommuting may help lift the spirit of workers and allow them to be more productive on the job, notes Truckenbrod. Also, an employer can offer flexible schedules to accommodate workers’ preferences, giving them options to enjoy the daylight hours. That could mean coming into the office earlier so they can enjoy the daylight hours on their way home, or vice versa.

“In either of these two cases, employers should let their staff know that they should be working the same number of hours in a more flexible manner,” says Truckenbrod. “These options can help workers become more engaged and motivated on the job during this time of year.”

Some final tips for achieving health and wellness in 2018 include:

  • Drinking more water instead of beverages with lots of sugar and caffeine;
  • Bringing healthy snacks to work — avoid overindulging in what’s in the break room, candy jar, or vending machine;
  • Take a walk outside or exercise at the gym during lunch, or try some at-desk exercises;
  • Schedule walking meetings;
  • Sleep better (and more) by disconnecting before bed, and consider the benefits of taking a power nap occasionally if your company encourages them; and
  • Focus on desk ergonomics and posture. Look into getting a standing or treadmill desk.

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Jan 22, 2018 08:47 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Interesting points ... one issue is that most illness last about a week - people don't want to or can't take seven days off to recover and not spread germs. I also know of a retail company here in Madison that provides zero sick days for their customer service people - which means infected employees work AND spread the illness not only to fellow workers, but the company's customers! There are establishments that need to seriously reconsider their benefits policies and expectations of their employees.

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