Steer Clear of Colds, Viruses, and Other Unwanted Guests at Work

Over the course of an average year, Australian workers use more than 80 million sick days, resulting in losses of more than $2.56 billion annually. A significant proportion of these absences can be chalked up to germ-borne ailments like the common cold or influenza.


According to microbiology researcher Charles Gerba, who has conducted dozens of recent studies on workplace contagion, the best way to avoid catching the latest office bug is by adopting an aggressive defense strategy. Here a few simple tips to help you hang on to your health this year.

  • Wash up. Your mother was right, and now science has confirmed it: no other single action reduces your risk of catching cold as effectively as simply washing your hands. Lather up for at least twenty seconds, and be sure to rinse well. Use a lotion-based formula if skin dryness is a problem.
  • Use antibacterial hand sanitiser – in moderation. For many different reasons, researchers caution against relying too heavily on hand sanitiser. However, the one instance in which you absolutely should make use of this modern marvel is if you suspect you may have been exposed to a cold or flu bug.
  • Maintain boundaries. If a coworker is under the weather, working through an illness, or is just returning to work after an illness-related absence, try to keep your distance, albeit discreetly.
  • Keep your tech tools clean. Several recent studies have singled out keyboards and mice as major sources of contamination in office settings. Most office supply stores sell special-purpose cleaning wipes that you can use to sanitise your equipment in seconds flat at the end of your shift.

The workplace has long been a major source of cold and flu infection, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you can drastically reduce your risk of catching the next cold or flu bug that makes its way around the office.