Managing Cold and Flu Season in Your Office
Cold and flu season is fast approaching. I can remember the days when I used to stock up on tissues, nasal sprays, aspirin, and nighttime decongestants because I was sure to get at least two or three colds a season.
That little tickle in my nose was always the first sign that I was doomed to a week or two of sniffles, sneezing, and nasty looks from co-workers. They were much happier if I stayed home.
My employer … not so much!
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports ‘the annual direct costs, such as hospital and doctor’s office visits, medications, of influenza (flu) in the United States are an estimated $4.6 billion. The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays due to flu, at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity’.
All of us feel pressured to work through illness. In our work harder society, no one likes to admit, “I’m home because I have a cold.”
So how do you manage cold and flu season in your office?
Avoid the Triggers
With all of those random germs lurking on door handles, escalator handrails, shopping cart handles, exercise equipment at the gym, and cell phones, it’s kind of hard to avoid being exposed to germs. No one lives in a bubble.
If you ask people what was happening in their lives before they came down with that cold or flu bug, chances are they will tell you they were:
- Under pressure at work to meet a deadline
- Stressed about school assignments or projects
- Working in the responsibility of caring for an aging parent or grandchildren while meeting the busy demands of their own lives
- Or stressing out over financial concerns.
And, it always fascinated me how many people get sick right after the winter holiday season or major event.
It would happen to my grandmother every year. After the big traditional Christmas Eve dinner at her house, where she and my grandfather hosted 25 family members, sometimes more, she would always come down with a cold or the flu and be in bed for a solid week afterward.
Stress … makes us sick.
When we are under pressure to perform, get things done, react, provide, help or create a safe environment for ourselves or others, the body produces the hormones we need to survive the perceived danger.
What Happens When we are Stressed?
Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline flow through the body when danger is recognized.
When stress is present, the sympathetic nervous system is also activated. This does things like speed up our heart rate and increases blood pressure and muscle response. But another thing this system does is it slows down the blood flow to the stomach so it can support the extremities, in case we need to run from that wooly mammoth.
When the digestive process is interrupted, it has an impact on the pathogens that live in the gut which are responsible for a healthy immune system. When disrupted over a prolonged period of time, or as a way of life for many of us, the immune system does not have the strength to fight those cold and flu bacteria and viruses that attack our bodies.
Holistic (and economical) Ways to De-Stress and Avoid Colds & Flu in Your Office
To help your staff prepare their immune systems for the coming season, post or share the following three suggestions:
- Take deep breaths when confronted with a project, bad news, or workload that makes your heart race and blood pressure rise.
- Do at least 5 minutes of stretching each day at home. More is better – but something is better than nothing.
- Spend 15 minutes a day of quiet time to allow both body and mind to relax.
Or … Host a Yoga/Mindfulness Workshop or Class.
As a tool, Yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the calming process that supports the rest and digest function of our bodies. The sooner we can use the parasympathetic nervous system to reverse the rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and lack of blood flow to the stomach, the better off we are at staying healthy this winter.
Yoga, as a form of exercise, helps lower the cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels in our bodies that put our immune system in jeopardy. But when we do Yoga, we are also conditioning our lungs and respiratory tract through the breathwork we do. We stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to move toxins from the body. It’s a pretty amazing tool that takes up no space in your medicine cabinet! And not as much time as you would imagine.
As you move into this winter season, consider offering a lunch time yoga/mindfulness class at your workplace. A weekly 30-45 minute session in a conference room can make a huge difference in the stress levels of your staff – and their susceptibility to cold and flu.
Another plus is, not only will you have a healthier staff, you might also learn that your health insurance costs will decrease. Happy, healthy immune systems mean fewer trips to the doctor’s office!
Whether suggestions on ways to destress or an in house yoga class – give your staff the tools they need to stay healthy and working this winter!
To your best,
P.S. A holistic approach to avoiding stress, cold and flu and helping your employees to be the best they can be at their jobs is available to you. Learn more about private and group Corporate Mindfulness Training Programs. Click soon – my schedule for 2020 is filling fast.