How to avoid spreading germs at work



It’s the middle of flu season and you’ve avoided getting sick so far – but how can you make sure to get through the winter without falling ill?

Offices are known to be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. A large number of people working in the same space, sharing close quarters, and interacting with each other every day makes it easy for bugs to spread around and renders employees susceptible to contagious illnesses. To make matters worse, a contaminated person not yet exhibiting symptoms of the cold or flu is already excreting the virus, thus contaminating objects, and even coworkers, along the way. The flu season usually starts in November and comes to a close in March. While the common cold can make an appearance throughout the year, colder weather results in a greater prevalence of infected individuals. To decrease the risk of passing along illnesses in the workplace this winter, follow these 5 tips:

  1. In an office where coworkers interact often, where there are many door handles, and when you just can’t help yourself from high-fiving someone for a job well done, make sure that you wash your hands often. Use warm water and sing the “Happy birthday” song twice through to make sure you’re washing for the appropriate amount of time. If using an alcohol-based rub that dries out the hands, keep a bottle of cream handy as well since cracks in the skin can quickly become an easy entry-way into the body for bacteria
  2. Think about getting the flu vaccine. Each year, scientists try to predict the strain of flu that will be most prevalent in the coming flu season to develop an effective vaccine. While their guesses may not always be perfect, getting vaccinated ensures that your body will be able to mount an appropriate response if you come across that specific strain. Getting the flu shot can also contribute to protecting others who cannot be vaccinated, such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals, because it makes you less likely to spread the virus. In recent years, there has been some controversy around whether people should get the annual flu vaccination or not. It is recommended that you get informed should there be any uncertainty. Therefore, contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions regarding the flu shot!
  3. Keep your immune system in check by focusing on overall healthy habits. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to boost the immune system, and thus taking Echinacea or an extra dose of vitamin C likely won’t protect you from falling ill. Instead, make sure that balanced nutrition, regular exercise, hydration, and a good night’s sleep are part of your routine, since a stronger immune system is usually associated with overall health.
  4. Try not to cough or sneeze in your hands. If you do and don’t end up washing your hands right away without touching any surfaces, there is a high likelihood of germs spreading. Instead, direct your coughs and sneezes to your inner arm or to a tissue that can subsequently be disposed of.
  5. Try to refrain from touching your face throughout the day. This will help avoid the spread of germs from your eyes, nose, and mouth to surfaces in the office. It will also prevent you from picking up bacteria and viruses.

Although these tips will help hinder the spread of germs in an office, they are not completely foolproof. If you do get sick, make sure to stay home from work. This will not only help your coworkers from getting sick, but it will also help you get back on your feet in no time!



Government of Canada. 2015. Prevention of flu (influenza). Retrieved from:

Hemila and Chalker. 2013. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review). The Cochrane Library. Issue 5.

WebMD. 2017. Echinacea for the common cold. Retrieved from: