9 Tips to Avoid the Flu – and Why to Stay Home If You Catch It

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More employees are showing up to work even when they're sick. Hoping to impress the boss, they end up angering their coworkers. Read on to find out how to avoid catching a coworker's flu.

Mariam-Webster may have to redefine “sick day” soon. The majority of employees now show up to work when they’re under the weather, according to two different polls.

Staffing company Accountemps says that 66 percent of employees are guilty of this, while CareerBuilder says 72 percent. Either way, that’s a lot.

“Some professionals come into work sick thinking it shows dedication and will impress their managers, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies, adding that, “They don’t want to fall behind in their work or burden colleagues who cover for them. However, they risk spreading their illness to others and affecting the entire team.”

The thing is, only 8 percent of employees say they’re impressed when their coworkers come to work despite being sick, while 34 percent wish they’d stayed at home and not risked spreading their cold or flu.

Speaking of the flu, the season is in full swing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nifty flu map, the flu is currently “widespread” – the worst possible rating – in all but seven states.

So, what’s a healthy employee to do when their sick colleagues show up? As someone who worked in medical practices for nearly a decade, I believe that, after a flu shot, frequent hand-washing is your best defense. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Rosemary Haefner, VP of HR at CareerBuilder, offers this advice:

  • Don’t share your germs: If you’re sick, do your best to keep your germs away from others by staying home. If you absolutely must come into the office, try to work in a conference room or away from others so you don’t spread your sickness. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Keep it balanced: With many workers facing heavier workloads and longer hours, some may be feeling maxed out. Be sure to manage your stress and stay healthy by taking a break during the day, exercising or even practicing yoga or meditation.
  • Talk it out: If you are concerned about taking days off work when you are ill, talk to your manager or HR department so that you have a clear understanding on how your sick days can be used. Offer to telecommute, delegate or call-in if necessary, but ensure you get as much rest as possible so you are back on your feet.

The CDC says a flu shot is “the single best way to prevent seasonal flu,” but adds the following tips. Hopefully they’re no-brainers, but it’s always good to be reminded:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Stacy Johnson

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