Five company culture changes to help reduce winter sickness

Winter is here, and so is a higher chance of catching the common cold, flu, or norovirus. As we spend more time indoors, we’re more likely to be exposed to germs and transmit infections to one another. 

Company absences can be costly for a small business. Here we share our 5 top tips for managers to help their staff avoid getting sick this winter and enter the new year in the healthiest way.

  1. Follow government guidance

Be sure to keep up with any changes in government guidance to ensure your team stays safe this winter. If your team is usually office-based, make sure you have lots of antibacterial soap available and set up accessible hand sanitising stations near common touch points, for example any doors and the kitchen area.

Keeping hands clean is one of the easiest ways to help avoid many infections – it’s worth reiterating this to your team to help keep it fresh in their minds. Remember to use warm water and soap, washing thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. If there’s no water nearby, be sure to use a hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol for more effective cleanliness.

  1. Encourage your team to take a Vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D plays a big role in keeping your bones, muscles, teeth and immune system strong. Our bodies rely on sunshine and diets to produce vitamin D, but during the autumn and winter, the UK’s sun levels aren’t high enough for us to make enough naturally.

Government guidance recommends that everyone living in the UK should take a daily vitamin D supplement of at least 10 µg (micrograms). It’s worth asking your team if they’re aware of the health benefits of vitamin D and encouraging them to get some supplements from their local supermarket, pharmacy or health foods shop to help keep them fighting fit this winter.

  1. Stay warm

Another simple way to help yourself stay fit to fight off infections is to keep yourself warm. Having rooms at a temperature of around 16°C helps to keep your body temperature at a healthy level – remind your team of this if they’re home-based, and make sure your buildings are adhering to this temperature when staff are office-based.

Regular exercise helps to boost your body temperature if you’re feeling chilly. Elevating your heart rate boosts your core temperature and can leave you feeling warmer long after the exercise has finished. Wearing thin layers of clothes helps to trap heat in, too.

Another way to help your body to generate heat is to eat and drink things that are warm. Providing easy access to kettles and microwaves makes it easier for your office staff to get at least one hot meal a day if they’re in the office.

  1. Offer flu vaccines

Employee flu vaccines are a simple way to offer your team an extra level of protection over winter. Experts predict that this year’s flu season may be much worse than other typical flu seasons, given that we’ve had less exposure to flu viruses due to social distancing.

Flu vaccines won’t stop your staff from catching the flu if they’re exposed to it, but they do help to lessen flu symptoms and protect other more vulnerable people.

  1. If you’re unwell, stay at home

Wherever your team is based, no one should feel like they’re expected to work if they’re not feeling well. Presenteeism – when you continue to work, even though you’re unwell - can cost your business time and money.

Coming into the workplace when you’re not feeling well can make health problems worse and, if staff have an infection, there’s a chance that they’ll infect the rest of the team, too. Research shows that people working while ill can cost companies more than sickness absences.

As a manager, you can help to create an open culture within your team, so everyone is encouraged to be honest and share that they’re not feeling well. Encourage good team connections by coordinating regular catchups. These catchups don’t necessarily have to be work-based; keeping socially stimulated can do wonders to promote openness, prevent loneliness and boost team morale, especially on dark, short days.