Like it or not, cold and flu season is upon us again. That means that, this season, employers face $225.8 billion dollars in lost productivity due to cold and flu-related absenteeism, or $1,685 per employee. The thought alone is enough to make many employers ill. So what can be done? Believe it or not…a lot! Facility managers play a pivotal role when it comes to reducing the spread of workplace germs. Here is a list of eight ways facility managers can be proactive in helping to curb costly sickness:

Place hand sanitizer at all entrances and workstations

Workplace collaboration means the sharing of skills and ideas in order to produce a quality product or service. It also means that materials and surfaces are handled by multiple people on a daily basis. According to the CDC, flu bacteria can live on inanimate objects for up to 48 hours and other virus-inducing particles can live up to a week. This combination of elements explain why colds and flus sweep through offices like pandemics. 

Hand sanitizer is commonly known to kill 99.99% of germs. Dramatically reduce the spread of germs by placing hand sanitizer at each workstation and by each office entrance. Choose touch-less hand sanitizer dispensers for even greater effectiveness.

Hang signage and invest in education 

Download posters from the CDC website that educate tenants on the importance of hand-washing in order to curb the spread of germs. Also educate them on the symptoms of the seasonal flu and how to avoid spreading or contracting it. Symptoms of influenza include but are not limited to: high fever, extreme fatigue, sore throat, dry cough, headache, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes this reminder is enough to encourage vigilance!

Hot tip: In order to keep cold and flu prevention top of mind, rotate posters on a weekly or biweekly basis to keep the materials fresh.

Install touchless bathroom features

When it comes to bathroom sanitation, people commonly assume that toilet seats contain the most bacteria but that is simply untrue. Check out these eye-opening statistics!

The average toilet paper dispenser has more than 150x the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Paper towel dispensers host more than 50x the bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Cleaning restrooms thoroughly at least once daily is critical – cold and flu season or not. Maximize your war on germs with some effective touch-less options. Motion-activated faucets and paper towel dispensers mean less germs are left behind on bathroom surfaces. As a result, freshly washed hands don’t become immediately contaminated. Also, consider installing a foot-operated door opener so patrons don’t have to grab a dirty doorknob on their way out of the restroom.

Implement smart technology

Clearly, maintaining clean, well-stocked restrooms is an important way to control the spread of germs in the workplace. With the creation of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart technology takes the guesswork out of some custodial duties. 

Facility managers can tap into smart technology. For example, install soap and paper towel dispensers with sensors that notify you when they’re running low. Then you can notify the building custodian and avoid a lapse in these germ-fighting supplies.

Attend to air quality 

Maintaining clean surfaces in the workplace is only half the battle. Cold and flu viruses live on surfaces but are also spread through the air. They can live on dust particles and respiratory droplets from sneezes or coughs. Clean facility air with a HEPA air filter on your HVAC system or use a freestanding air purification system to “scrub” the air of germs. 

Vacuum daily

Just as desks, computers and other workplace materials host germs, so do carpets, mats and rugs. Make sure they are vacuumed daily with a HEPA vacuum and decrease exposure to cold and flu bacteria. 

Use humidifiers

Humidified air makes it easier to breathe when a person’s congested, soothes a sore throat and calms a cough but it also helps ward off germs. In 2009, a study by the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that flu germs live longer and spread more easily in an environment where humidity levels are lower. WebMD reports that maintaining an indoor humidity level of 43% or higher helps to curb 86% of airborne virus particles. 

Through the use of commercial humidifiers, facility managers can take a big step in rendering the vast majority of airborne germs harmless while increasing the comfort of building tenants.

Follow cleaning best practices 

Make sure office workspaces are wiped down frequently with disinfecting wipes. This includes desks, doorknobs, computer monitors, trackpads and mice and kitchen/break room spaces. Also, take precautions when it comes to storing cleaning supplies. OSHA recommends paying close attention to product shelf life and storage recommendations so products retain maximum effectiveness. 

Facility managers have many responsibilities when it comes to the health and safety of building tenants. Working to reduce the spread of germs is one of them. Follow industry tips and tricks for combating cold and flu germs and reduce costly tenant absenteeism.