It’s the season of colds and flu, a time when you simply may be too ill to go to work. You’re one of many sufferers. However, staff absenteeism costs the South African economy up to R16-billion annually. We have some suggestions that may help employees and their employers support their own and corporate health (and benefit the business).
So there you are, sneezing, sniffing and with a burning throat. But there’s a work project you simply have to complete, so you head to the office. Is that a good thing? You’re feeling ghastly (and a little smug for not shirking your duties), but your colleagues may not really appreciate your dedication. They’re giving you a wide berth. And are you really able to finish the job to the best of your abilities?
Corporate health is a year-round concern for companies big and small. But winter colds and flu are by far the primary reasons that keep people away from work. And with increasingly virulent strains becoming ever more common, the problem is not improving. In fact, absenteeism costs the South African economy up to R16-billion annually.
What can you do to support corporate health and stay healthy at work?
When you’re working in close quarters with colleagues every day, these tips may help you stay healthy:
- Wash your hands often. Yes, that old chestnut! Washing your hands regularly is ‘the number one way you can prevent yourself from getting sick,’ says Stacia Pierce of Huffington Post. Take it seriously, though – wash your hands before you eat, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing. Wash them too if you’ve spent time at or near the workspace of someone who is sick, sneezing or coughing. (Keep a pack of disinfectant wet wipes or a bottle of hand sanitiser at your desk.)
- Improve your diet. Diet is one of the biggest challenges to corporate wellness. If the air in your office reeks of burgers, fried chicken and hot chips, the chances are that KFC/MacDonald’s takeaways have been on the lunchtime menu. Fast foods may be difficult to resist when the weather is cold and your tummy needs comforting, but those deep-fried delights are a no-no – all kilojoules and no health value.
‘People need to power their immune systems with a healthy diet to avoid colds and flu,’ says Lila Bruk, spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa. She suggests eating peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits and guavas for vitamin C; garlic for its antiviral properties; anti-oxidant-rich broccoli, which contains beta-carotene to help the body fight disease; and cashew nuts with zinc, a mineral known to fight off colds. ‘Mushrooms are good source of B vitamins, which help your body to cope better with stress,’ she adds. (Excessive stress has been shown to weaken your immune system). ‘Fresh tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids – vital to strengthen the immune system; yoghurt contains probiotics (“friendly” bacteria that help fight infections caused by harmful bacteria); and ginger helps break down mucus and treat sinusitis and bronchitis.’
- Keep healthy snacks at your desk. When blood-sugar dips make you hungry, avoid the vending machine chocolates and nibble on dried fruits, nuts and yoghurt instead.
- Drink plenty of water. Drink water to keep your system well hydrated and your productivity and energy levels high. Water helps you stay alert and refreshed, and promotes clear thinking. Herbal teas are good too, but limit your coffee intake to one or two cups a day.
- Get some exercise. Get some outdoor time every day. Icy temperatures don’t cause colds and flu – flu bugs are distributed more because we’re staying indoors with the windows closed. Working together in a confined space encourages the spread of germs. Fresh air revitalises your brain and beats that sleepy feeling too – we guarantee you’ll work better when you return.
How management can help staff stay healthy at work.
Management can play an important role in corporate health. Larger companies may be able to supplement gym memberships and health-food canteens, but smaller organisations can contribute by taking an intimate, more personal approach.
- Educate staff about healthy eating. Make information about a good diet available to everyone. Arrange for a natural healthcare professional to address your staff about healthy eating.
- Encourage exercise. Urge your colleagues to exercise, without policing them (you don’t want to add more stress to their day). Work to create an environment in which employees prioritise their wellbeing and look out for each other during busy times. The better your team look after themselves, the fewer working hours will be lost. ‘Give your employees some freedom,’ says Julia Creffield, consultant for the British Sports Council and ambassador for a UK initiative that encourages women and girls to exercise. ‘Sitting at a desk all day can leave you feeling fatigued and your work suffers,’ she says. ‘It’s a problem if a member of staff can’t just say they’re going for a break, or for a walk, and instead has to wait until lunchtime. If you trust staff to manage their time, you’ll have a more productive workforce.’ And, in a 2013 survey by the UK mental health charity Mind, 60% of workers said they’d feel more motivated if their employer took action to support their mental wellbeing.
- Support hygiene. Germs can be transferred onto taps and telephones, even a kettle. Management can monitor hygiene with regular cleaning and disinfecting. ‘Our office equipment such as telephones are periodically disinfected by outside contractors,’ says Gunther Kerschbaumer of Herbal Homeopathic. That’s money well spent.
- Ward off sickness before it strikes. Advise staff to strengthen their immune systems before colds and flu strike. Kerschbaumer and his team are passionate about natural health, and use their knowledge to encourage staff to look after themselves and their families. ‘We provide multivitamins,’ he says. ‘I recommend that they use them not only for themselves, but for the rest of their family too.’ The benefits? Better corporate health and fewer work days lost to staff absenteeism.
As Emma Featherstone writes in The Guardian, ‘Remember, an investment in your employees’ health is an investment in the growth and sustainability of your company. The people who make up your workforce are a valuable asset that should be well managed with as much focus as any other strategic business development.’
Try some natural products to support your body
We believe innately in the power of natural remedies to support healthy bodies and minds, and numerous local companies purchase our products to help their staff during the cold and flu season. We suggest you try our Immune capsules and Echi-Mune™ drops to support your immune system; Turmerynne™ to support all body functions; Anti-Flu™ drops to relieve cold and flu symptoms such as congestion, fever, inflammation, headache and swollen glands; and Candida Formula™ to fight fungal infections. You’ll find them all in our online shop.
Flora Force has you covered!
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- Association for Dietetics in South Africa
- Featherstone, Emma. Wellness in the workplace: how health initiatives can boost staff productivity. 2015, Aug. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2015/aug/28/wellness-workplace-health-initiatives-boost-staff-productivity
- Mind. How to promote wellbeing and tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems. 2013. https://www.mind.org.uk/media/428496/Resource3_HowToPromoteWellBeingFINAL.pdf
- Nkonkobe, Zisanda. Truth about colds, flu. 2017. April. Dispatch Live. http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/daily-life/2017/04/25/truth-colds-flu/
- Pierce, Stacia. 10 best practices to staying healthy at work. 2015. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacia-pierce/10-best-practices-to-staying-healthy-at-work_b_6844336.html
- Photo courtesy of rawpixel / Pixabay.com