It’s been reported that this may be the earliest flu season in a decade. By now the flu season is in full swing and yes, there is such a thing as flu etiquette, especially if you are the one confronted with a sniffling, sneezing colleague. There is the age old question, “Should I go to work if I am sick?” and depending on your boss, the answer could be either “yes” or “no.” (It should be no!)
In my office, the answer would be a resounding, “Absolutely not and thank you for asking!” Admittedly, I am the last one to want to be near, or listen to, a hacking employee. I also don’t want to subject my clients to someone who can potentially transmit germs to them or their unsuspecting families. If you have the misfortune of getting the flu, or another seasonal bug, here are a few more tips on Cold and Flu Etiquette:
- Get a flu shot – The flu vaccine isn’t a guarantee against getting the flu, but it’s the best protection available. According to Dr. Richard Bessar, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, you can’t get the flu by taking the vaccine, much to the contrary of what some people are saying: abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/flu-influenza-season-earliest-decade-prevention-tips-virus-18120380.
- Stay home and seek medical attention – Don’t go to work; go to the doctor sooner rather than later. Often people wait until they are absent from work multiple days and then decide to visit the overcrowded, germ-infested emergency room. While a virus must run its course, other treatments or medications may still be required to help fight against whatever ails you. Consider making an appointment with your doctor, or visiting your neighborhood minor emergency clinic for speedier treatment rather than spending hours in the ER.
- Scrub a dub dub – It goes without saying that the use of soap and water are important throughout the year, but never more appreciated than when you are blowing your nose every several seconds. By simply being in close quarters with another person you risk the unfavorable sharing of your germs, even more so when in close proximity of an office space, sharing telephones, computer keyboards, writing pens and other office supplies. I am not a doctor, but I do consider myself a close second given the fact that I am so strongly opinionated when it comes to the unnecessary sharing of germs. Some may argue you can’t spread germs by sharing a writing pen, but I say, “Why take the chance?”
- Keep a supply of cough drops and hand sanitizer nearby – It’s somewhat comforting to see someone use hand sanitizer after they have wiped their hand across their mouth or nose. I was at the nail salon this afternoon and my manicurist would sneeze, blow and sanitize. I have to say that I was less than assured that she was germ free, but I appreciated the attempt. And, yes, I immersed my hands in soap and hot water as soon as I jumped out of her chair. Cough drops tend to aid in quelling a cough, especially if you are boarding an airplane and don’t want to encounter the uncomfortable glare of your fellow passengers.
- Sneeze into your left arm or shoulder – This is a must do! Not only does this action keep germs to a minimum, but it also leaves your right hand sanitary and free for handshaking when you are out and meeting with clients (and why aren’t you at home in bed instead of out meeting with clients?).
- Use your hankie in your left hand – Doing so also helps to avoid a germy handshake. While the protocol in business is to shake hands when you are out in public, I have to say that if I see someone blowing into a tiny piece of flimsy tissue, I would much prefer they say, “Please forgive me, I am not feeling my best and would prefer to protect you by forgoing a handshake today.” I know I will hear from some naysayers on this tip, but I am sure you will understand the logic, especially if it’s YOU standing across from a drippy nosed, feverish client or colleague.
- Forego the hugs until you are feeling better – It is a kinder act to keep a safe distance from loved ones when you’re sick rather than embracing them in a close and overwhelming bear hug. Your business associates (and family members) will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
- Don’t share glassware or eating utensils – This is not the time to share a Panini with your cubicle mate. Regardless of how close the two of you are, hold off until you are feeling better. In business you aren’t supposed to share a meal anyways, so you have no business eating from the same plate!
- Stay connected with technology until you are fever free for 24 hours – Just like school children are not supposed to return to school until they are fever free for 24 hours, you should do the same. Keeping up communication via email and text allows you to interact with clients, respond to urgent matters and stay on top of your work until you are back in the office.
Rest and relax – You will recover more quickly if you take care of yourself. Use this time to recharge your battery and allow others to take care of you. Chicken soup does wonders for a sick body and tired soul.
To your health,