Avoiding office colds: How to stay healthy at work in winter
Working in an office can be great at times. You’ll be surrounded with colleagues you can socialise with, who will be there to support you if you’re having trouble with your job, and are always willing to share the best gossip. However, when winter arrives, your workmates could end up causing problems by making you ill.
The cold weather brings plenty of diseases with it, and while some will get away with just a few sniffles, others could end up with full-blown flu. Coughs, sneezes and sore throats are common at this time of year, and in environments full of people – like your office – they can spread quickly.
Other elements of office life, such as poor ventilation and lots of different people coming and going, all contribute to this. So how can you avoid catching a cold from your colleagues this winter? Read on to find out our best tips for staying healthy at work when the temperatures drop.
Make sure you’re washing your hands properly
Cold and flu viruses can survive outside of the human body for as long as three hours, and if you’re sharing an office with people who are ill, they are probably going to be on a lot of the surfaces you touch. Everything from light switches to door handles could have an unpleasant coating of germs that you can catch by touching them.
However, you can help keep them at bay by washing your hands more often than usual; some doctors recommend doing so twice as much as you would in the summer. You should pay more attention to how you are washing as well. You should use warm water and plenty of soap, and make sure to scrub the skin and under the nails.
You should also try to make sure you spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands each time you do so. To time this, why not find a short song – like a nursery rhyme – that is about the right length? Then you can sing it in your head to make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough.
Keep up a healthy lifestyle
You need your immune system to be in top condition in order to fight off cold germs, but an unhealthy lifestyle can tax it. To avoid getting ill during the winter months, you need to make sure you keep on top of your diet, stress and sleeping so your body is best able to deal with diseases.
For example, hydration is important. It’s easy to drink lots of water in summer, as the heat makes you thirsty, but you shouldn’t neglect this in winter. You also need to avoid junk food and eat a balanced diet, as well as aiming to get eight hours of sleep per night. Stress is also an issue, so find a way to relax and wind down at the end of each day.
Keep your environment clean
Your desk, computer and stationery can all act as a home for cold and flu germs. There’s no need to become obsessed with this, but it is a good idea to keep everything clean if you want to avoid illness. Some simple disinfectant spray or wipes will do the trick; use them at the beginning of each day (or more if you want) to kill off any viruses lingering in your environment.
If you are sharing an office with a few sick people, it might be a good idea to end each work day with a shower and a change of clothes as well. Remember, those germs can survive for hours, so if you stay in your work clothes all day you could be increasing your chance of catching a cold.
Get enough vitamin D
The shorter days and longer nights of winter mean we get less sunlight than the rest of the year. This in turn means our bodies absorb less vitamin D, which we get from the sun. Without this nutrient, our immune systems don’t work as well, along with other health issues like sleep troubles.
You can make up for this by eating plenty of vitamin D-rich foods, like fish, cheese and eggs. If you’re especially worried about it, then you can always take a vitamin D supplement to make sure your levels are topped up.
Work from home if possible
Flexible working is becoming more and more common these days, as many people can do their jobs just as well at home as they can in an office. If this is an option that’s available to you, then it is a good idea to use it if you’re worried about catching a cold.
If you start showing symptoms, you should definitely stay at home. Not only will a few days working from a warm bed do you good, it will also help prevent you spreading your cold to your colleagues, making the office healthier for everyone.