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Preventing Employees Getting Sick When They Return To Work

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preventing workers from getting sick at work

A sick employee should stay home. When they are at work, there’s always the risk that everyone else in the office will catch the illness, too.

When workers return to the workplace after an extended holiday, there is a potential for them to be exposed to various health risks. Some are due to where they took their holiday, and others may be due to what they pick up in the office.

If the illness is food poisoning or due to an unclean workplace, that’s on you – the owner or manager.

If your workplace has been closed for a few weeks, it may have a few unwanted guests. Cockroaches, ants, and rodents may be hiding in plain sight.

Additionally, employees and all staff are likely to spend time in the kitchen, and with so many people using one space, the risk of food poisoning and foodborne illness increases.

How can you prevent workers from getting sick at work?

Maybe it comes down to preventing pests in the workplace. A thorough clean-up after an extended closure could be all it takes to have a full complement of healthy staff back at work.

Instead of a clean space, the kitchen is often teeming with dirty dishes, crusty counters, unwiped spills, and spoiled food. Even when the kitchen appears clean, dangerous bacteria can lurk unseen if specific hygiene standards are not maintained.

Foodborne bacterial infections affect millions of people with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, and the severity can range from feeling uncomfortable to death in severe cases.

Illnesses from the kitchen can be avoided if certain best practices are implemented.

Tell your cleaner to keep cleaning the office even when your office is closed for the holidays.

Routine Cleaning

Maintain a regular cleaning schedule for common areas, including floors, countertops, and tables. Vacuum carpets and mop floors to eliminate food crumbs and spills.

Dispose of trash regularly and ensure that trash bins have tight-fitting lids. Clean trash bins periodically to remove any residue.

It’s impossible to catch everything, so regular cleaning keeps your workplace up to a satisfactory standard of cleanliness and hygiene.

The Kitchen and Common Areas

Employee education on food storage and cleaning is vital. Provide education to employees about the importance of cleanliness and report any signs of pests promptly.

Encourage employees to store food in sealed containers to prevent attracting pests. Regularly inspect and clean kitchen areas, including appliances and storage spaces.

Empty and clean appliances such as microwaves, toasters, and coffee makers. Remove crumbs and spills that might attract pests.

The Fridge

An office fridge can quickly become a communal dumpster where no one takes responsibility for its cleanliness.

A refrigerator should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant solution, the temperature should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and all food should be thrown out as soon as it expires.

For example, celebrating birthdays with cake.

Birthday Cake

While celebrating a coworker’s birthday with a cake is a nice gesture. In the best scenarios, the cake is handled by someone’s probably ungloved hands. At worst, it’s the target of your colleague’s birthday wish candle blowout.

Add to the likelihood that the cake will sit on a counter, the frosting being swiped at by colleagues’ fingers when they think no one else is looking. It’s probably better to say “thanks, but no thanks.”

The Grimy Dishcloths

If your office has used sad-looking dishcloths that have seen better days, they may be a vile source of dangerous bacteria.

An office without a dedicated person who works to wash and sterilize those dish towels regularly is better off using disposable paper towels. Worried about the environmental cost? Opt for recycled paper towels and use them sparingly.

The Dirty Dishes

When people share the same utensils and plates, it is not only basic decency to keep everything clean but also imperative to everyone’s health.

A dishwasher is an ideal way to sanitize dishes and cutlery, but when this method is not an option, go for handwashing using hot, soapy water. Make it a rule that everyone cleans up after themselves. If someone is caught violating the policy, consequences should be agreed upon.

Since bacteria thrive in an office kitchen, cleanliness is critical to preventing food poisoning and keeping employees healthy and on the job.

Preventing Pests

Inspect and seal any potential entry points for pests, such as gaps in windows, doors, and walls. Ensure that windows and doors are properly screened.

Schedule regular pest inspections by professional pest control services.

Deep Cleaning

Organize a deep cleaning session when the office is closed for days or weeks.  Be prepared to pay more for your cleaners to spend more time on particular attention areas than usual.

Conduct a deep cleaning of all common spaces, including kitchenettes, break rooms, and dining areas.

Ensure your cleaners pay special attention to areas where food is prepared or stored.  It’s an opportune time to clean out refrigerators and dispose of expired food while the staff are away for an extended period.

Ensure that trash bins are disinfected, tightly sealed, and placed away from the building.

Professional Pest Control

Consider hiring professional pest control services to treat the premises. Use safe and approved pest control methods.

Inspect and seal any potential entry points for pests.

Other Health Risks

Preventing common illnesses or health issues of your staff will be challenging. When the weather is colder and workers return to work, they may already have the common cold or flu. The close proximity to colleagues will increase the risk of it spreading.

Stress

Yes, hard to believe; however, returning to work after a holiday break can be stressful, potentially leading to symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, or even depression.

Changes in diet, especially during the festive season, can lead to digestive issues when returning to regular eating habits.

Sleep Disorder

Additionally, depending on where your staff took their holidays, they may suffer from sleeping disorders due to jet lag or just a change of sleep times,n, which can affect their immune system, exposing them to catching the flu or a cold.

Summary

To mitigate these risks, employers can encourage healthy practices such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, promoting good hygiene, and fostering a supportive work environment.

Additionally, allowing a gradual return to work rather than an abrupt return can help employees readjust and reduce stress.

Employee well-being programs and initiatives can also be crucial in addressing health concerns after holidays. When all else fails, there is your employee healthcare plan to fall back on.

Plus, maintaining a clean and pest-free workplace is an ongoing process. Regular inspections and consistent adherence to hygiene practices will help prevent and control pest infestations. If the infestation is severe, it’s advisable to consult with a professional pest control service for a comprehensive solution.