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Infection Control / Infection Control
February 2014 A Clean Sweep

It's Better If You Don’t

Workers may be tempted to go into work even when they are sick, but by staying home, they’re doing everyone else a favor.

January 31, 2014
KEYWORDS bacteria / germs / sick
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As the seasons change from summer to fall, and with winter now in full swing, something else is knocking down the door of offices, schools and businesses everywhere: Cold and flu season.

Much like the changing of the actual seasons, cold and flu season is inevitable. But unlike winter, which can, and has, devastate parts of the country, the cold and flu can be prevented, or at least minimized.

Even knowing this, year after year the cold and flu still has the ability to take its toll on the population.

The most devastating part of the cold and flu is how easily it can pass from person to person if proper precautions are not taken.

One of the most important, but often overlooked, ways to prevent the spread of the cold and flu is staying home when you’re sick.

But, a survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional in September revealed that, while it might be common sense, it’s not a very well followed practice.


While how and when the cold and flu season will hit is largely unpredictable, the fact that people will get sick is a given.

Unfortunately, many of those who get sick, take their germs with them to the most unfortunate of places: Work.

In fact, a whopping 59 percent of people go to work when they are sick, with three in 10 of those people claiming they were “too important to the business operation” to miss work.

Within these findings lies both good and bad news.

The Bad News

Many people go to work when they are sick because they feel that they are “essential to the equation.”

Many people also feel too much pressure in the workplace to be there to ensure things get done.

In a growing culture of doing more with less, everyone takes on more responsibilities.

Unfortunately, this breeds the mentality that not being at work will put a worker behind; it also breeds a culture of germs and bacteria.

The Good News

On the flip side, workers didn’t seem to indicate that they continued to go to work while sick simply to prove their commitment.

For many, the issues of staying home versus going to work stems from not knowing how their work would get done if they were not there.

In what seems to go hand in hand with a business culture that strives to do more with less, workers who have to do more, they realize that no one is going to do their work for them.

Tips And Tricks

According to Kelly Arehart, global innovation, health and wellness for Kimberly-Clark Professional, handwashing is still the first step in preventing the spread of germs and bacteria.

When plain old soap and water isn’t available, Arehart stresses the use of hand sanitizer.

More important is the need to break the cycle of transmission, which handwashing and hand sanitizers can h elp with, especially given some of the habits we have, that occur without even thinking about them.

“We touch our face at least 16 times an hour,” said Arehart. “It’s easy to transmit germs and bacteria from unclean hot spots or high touch points to our bodies simply by touching our eyes, nose or mouth.”

Paying particular attention to the more neglected hotspots like sinks and faucets in restrooms and other common areas that can become breeding grounds in the blink of an eye.

Even products that are designed to make a restroom more germ-free, like automatic sink faucets can harbor more bacteria than you might think.

Better Understanding

One of the key questions that surveys will look at is “What is driving behavior?”

It is important to understand what is driving the behavior of building occupants in order to better protect their health.

And, while you may not be able to change the behavior of others, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Chief among the things you can do is to wash, wipe and sanitize, a message that appears to be getting through.

According to the survey:

  • 79 percent wash their hands after coming in contact with a sick colleague.
  • 97 percent wash their hands after using the restroom as a way to avoid getting sick.
  • 81 percent use a hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes.
  • 84 percent said the top motivator for using products to avoid colds and the flu was easy access.

Be courteous to you fellow worker; try to keep your germs at home.

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