At all times of the year there are things we can do to make our workplace safer, but this time of year, in particular, when there are cold and flu bugs floating around, we all need to do our part to make our workplace a more healthy one. I have a particular interest because I am immune-suppressed due to a medication I take, and there are other coworkers and spouses who are in the same position as me. While a person with a normal immune system can fight off common colds and influenza, a person with a compromised immune system can have a scratchy throat on Monday and be hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia by Friday (that was my own experience).
Look at it this way: when you cough or sneeze into your hand without washing your hands afterward, or (pay attention, guys) you use the restroom without washing your hands afterward, everything you touch afterward becomes a potential source of contamination. The keyboard, mouse, door handle, refrigerator handle, coffee pot that you touch: anyone who touches them afterward is handling everything that has come in contact with your hands since the last time you washed them (if you think of it that way, it’s pretty disgusting, isn’t it!).
Most of us grew up in an era where we were told to cover our cough or sneeze with our hands, and it’s a hard habit to break. But if you make a conscious effort to sneeze or cough into your sleeve or the crook of your elbow, it won’t take very long for the new habit to take hold. And never, ever sneeze or cough into open air. If you do catch your sneeze or cough in your hand, please take a few moments to wash or sanitize your hands.
As for bathroom hygiene, that should be a no-brainer. It takes about 20 seconds to properly wash your hands (with soap!). Is your day so busy that you can’t spare 20 seconds each time you use the restroom? No.
If everyone takes just a few simple steps to be more meticulous about workplace hygiene, we will have a more healthy workplace. Your coworkers will likely thank you for it; I definitely will.