Find yourself catching every little sniffle that your co-workers sneeze your way? Here's how to stay healthy in the office year-round.
Keep things sanitary. This is as much for your good as for the people with whom you share enclosed spaces. Make sure you wash all your community dishes thoroughly before putting them away. Properly store your lunch and other food in the office kitchen, and keep track of what you've put in there so nothing stays long enough to grow mold.
Keep a bottle of sanitizer on your desk that you can pump onto your hands whenever you're around a sick co-worker (but maybe wait until she leaves your office to apply), and spray down your keyboard every few weeks to clear it of dust and germs.
And don't forget to wash your hands! It sounds silly, but many people don't wash them for the appropriate length to get rid of germs and bacteria that could be harmful. Experts recommend you wash your hands with soap and water for the amount of time it would take you to sing "Happy Birthday" at a normal speed. Since you're most likely to pick up the flu or another illness on your hands and then transfer the virus to your face, this can greatly reduce your risk of getting sick. An experiment conducted at the University of California - Berkeley a few years ago found that students touched their eyes, nose or lips between three and 104 times over a three-hour period. Reduce your risk by keeping your hands clean.
Promote healthy activity. Rather than eating at your desk and playing Words with Friends on your break, go outside and get some fresh air. Better yet, coax a colleague into walking with you daily on your lunch hour. Walking can reduce your stress, boost your immune system and help you live longer.
If you're the boss, consider implementing a health and wellness program. From weight-loss programs and smoke cessation help, to on-site yoga classes or paid gym memberships, these types of perks may reduce the number of sick days your staff takes and cut down on your health insurance costs. More companies are being proactive in wellness care, rather than paying more for health insurance to pay for treatment costs like doctor visits.
Watch what you eat. Your lunch and snacks at work are your responsibility. Planning your meals for the week in advance will help you avoid the "on-a-deadline-soda-and-bag-of-chips" lunch. That goes for eating out too. If you're a snacker, keeping a drawer of nuts and dried fruit can give you that extra energy burst you need later in the day and keep you from heading to the snack machine.
Get out of the office. Even leaving the office for 10 minutes might make you feel better and get you away from those questionable fluorescent lights. And if you have the luxury, work from home when you can, especially during flu season. You'll remove yourself from the germs your co-workers bring to work and help boost your own immune system by staying in a familiar environment.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.