Kick Bad Habits and Fight the Flu at the Office

As flu season approaches, nearly 70 percent of employees admit to coming into the office while sick, a habit that may increase the spread of this common virus at the office. Even with heightened preventive measures at businesses across the country, this finding from a recent survey by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., confirms that office workers continue to stick to old habits. Staples Advantage offers easy tips to help businesses and employees fight the flu at the office.

This years flu and germ survey, which polled more than 150 U.S. office workers, revealed some of the workforces cleaning and health habits at the office. For example:

- "Sick days" may be a thing of the past: While nearly one-third of respondents companies have sick day policies, more than 60 percent of employees felt compelled to go into work because there was "too much going on" or felt the need to "tough it out."

- More than your inbox needs cleaning: People are more consumed with cleaning their e-mail inbox than their physical workspace. Nearly half of all workers clean their inboxes at least once a day, whereas only 15 percent clean their physical workplace at least once a day.

"Thankfully, today much is known about how germs and viruses cause illness," says Lisa Hamblet, vice president for the facility solutions and service business of Staples Advantage. "Armed with knowledge and a thorough cleaning regimen, businesses can take positive steps to change habits and combat the flu, keep sickness at bay and promote a healthy and productive office. A proactive approach to prevention is the best defense."

What is The Dirtiest Office Item?

Survey findings about perceptions of the dirtiest office items include:

- Nearly one-third of respondents believe their keyboard and phone are the dirtiest items in their office, yet less than 10 percent clean these items often.

- About 15 percent think the breakroom dish sponge is the dirtiest item in the office. Half of respondents also noted that colleagues leave dirty dishes in the kitchen.

- Less than 10 percent say they clean desk surfaces very often with disinfectants or sanitizing products, a concerning habit since nine out of 10 respondents also said many employees at their company eat meals at their desks.

- Nearly 100 percent of survey respondents noted they are concerned with catching a virus at work, but less than 40 percent have taken additional preventative measures to keep germs at bay.

How You Can Prevent the Spread of Germs in Your Office

Staples Advantage recommends these easy steps to help offices and employees maintain a healthier environment:

- Focus on the simple solution: Proper handwashing is the most important technique that many people ignore. Ensure proper handwashing by providing self-foaming soap, touch-free fixtures and motion-sensor dispensers in bathrooms.

- Be prepared: Some important products to have on hand, just-in-case, include gloves, masks, sanitizing wipes and disinfecting cleaning chemicals. Also, clean common-touch surfaces such as bathroom doors, elevator buttons and ATM machines more frequently.

- Utilize technology as much as possible: Technology and home office solutions can help encourage employees to stay home when sick to prevent the spread of germs and the flu. Whenever possible, promote telecommuting as an option for employees when theyre feeling ill.

"Organizations of all sizes can create effective cleaning programs to help reduce the spread of office germs," says Roger McFadden, senior scientist at Staples Advantage. "However, individuals can also do their part to protect themselves and their co-workers from germs. For example, encourage respiratory etiquette, use tissues, clean up your workspace and wash hands properly."

Staples Advantage conducted an online survey of more than 150 office workers at organizations of all sizes across the U.S. The survey, conducted in July 2011, asked a series of questions about hygiene in the workplace and office sick day policies.