Five Little Ways To Protect Yourself From Getting Sick At Work

by Caroline Burke

I know you don't want to hear this, but office workplaces are basically cess pools of bacteria — particularly during cold and flu season in the winter. When you go to work, you're coming into contact with so many germs, and so many people, that it almost feels inevitable you'll get sick when you think about it. Figuring out how to avoid getting sick at work can be a full-time job all on its own. Plus, there's the added stress of pleasantries: You don't want to be rude, but you really would rather not be near that lady in human resources who's been coughing for days.

Unfortunately, unless you can work from home for the entire duration of the flu season, you'll have to find a way to reconcile your work responsibilities with your desire to avoid becoming a phlegm machine.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to minimize your contact with potentially dangerous germs, and most of them have to do with avoiding any and all unnecessary contact. The 2018 flu season has been especially intense, with experts predicting it to potentially be one of the worst outbreaks the world has ever seen — and you can feel free to tell your boss that, when she asks why you're walking around in a bubble suit.

Here are five totally reasonable, non-bubble suit strategies for avoiding the flu while still maintaining a steady income.

Avoid Shared Office Spaces

If you can, do as much work at your own desk as possible, and don't spend the day working from shared office tables or group brainstorm rooms.

Your desk is most likely contaminated with a majority of your germs, rather than a medley of every human who's ever worked at your company. Plus, you can control just how clean it is, and wipe it down with an anti-bacterial wipe as often as you choose.

Stay Away From The Office Kitchen

Office kitchens can be so gross, it's borderline devastating. One recent study revealed that office teabags may have 17 times as many germs as toilet seats, so yeah, you want to stay out of there as much as you can manage.

Make it a point to bring in your own coffee, lunch, and snacks to work, rather than resorting to the office kitchen for them. Or you can pop out of the office to go buy a coffee, and the fresh air all on its own will do you some good.

Skip The Handshake

No one's going to blame you if you decide to bypass the handshake for a month or two. You're basically rubbing your hand against a foreign petri dish every time you do it, and you have no idea if that petri dish sneezed into its elbow like it's supposed to.

Instead of shaking hands, offer a wave or a friendly smile. Or, if you're really uncomfortable with not shaking hands, you can sneak by with a teeny tiny white lie by saying you've been feeling under the weather, and don't want to give what you have to the other person. They'll appreciate the gesture, and you'll get to walk away totally unharmed.

Don't Be A Hero

If you're feeling sick, do everyone in your office a favor and stay home. One of the best ways to encourage a healthy workplace is to take the lead and be a good example for others.

Even if you're just feeling crappy, or sneezing a lot, choosing to work from home is a sign of respect for yourself and for your co-workers, as well.

Encourage Others To Avoid Being Heroes, Too

Sometimes people need a little bit of encouragement to do the right thing. If one of your co-workers is trying to put on a good face, and keeps showing up to work and blowing through a box of tissues a day, you might want to pull them aside and politely suggest they go home to get some rest.

The pressure to look professional can be overwhelming, but it's important to remember that, really, the most professional thing a person can do is recognize when they have to stay home, in bed, and watch old Friends re-runs on Netflix.