Is Your Job Making You Sick? 12 Tips to Prevention
High-pressure jobs can create psychological stress that is severe enough to have physical effects, from chronic headaches and nausea to insomnia. Severe stress has even been known to cause strokes. But aside from stressors, is your job literally making you sick?
I am not talking about sick from the beloved coworker who is a popcorn chomping, eating last night’s fish dinner at their desk type of sick…
I mean contracting illnesses through other employees’ bad habits, poor hygiene, and/or their lack of consideration for bringing contaminants into the workplace in lieu of staying home.
We all have probably experienced exposure to ill coworkers in the office at some point in time. The common cold and flu are easily spread amongst other infectious diseases. Besides your hacking, coughing, and sneezing coworker, what other office space germs could be making you sick?
Some employees have poor hygiene and bathe in perfume and cologne as to mask their need for a shower or trying to overpower their bonfire clothes from the evening prior. The toxins in the fragrances they overuse can lead to migraines or chronic headaches for some individuals. While this seems laughable, trust me, it occurs often in the workplace. It is inconsiderate to not only use offensive amounts of perfume at work but also “spritzing” here and there at your desk can cause respiratory problems for some sensitive groups, such as those with asthma. Err on the side of caution before using fragrances at your desk and don’t be afraid to politely ask those around you to refrain from such use.
Clipping fingernails or grooming facial hair at the desk can leave a host of bacteria to be spread around. If someone does not practice proper hand washing as well, all of that trapped bacteria under their nails is now being spread throughout the office.
Leaving old food in the community refrigerator to allow mold to grow and harbor bacteria can leave a foul smell that other lunch bags unfortunately absorb. Refrigerators left unclean can also be a breeding ground for spoilage bacteria that can grow at low temperatures. Eventually, they cause food to develop poorly or tastes and smells badly. Some bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes thrive in cold temperatures and if present, will multiply in the refrigerator over time and could cause illness.
Community office kitchens not sanitized properly can host more bacteria and communicable diseases greater than a public bathroom. Every office should have a point person designated for weekly maintenance and cleaning of this community space.
Speaking of public restrooms, we’ve all seen a neglected or misused restroom at work. There’s nothing more disgusting than hearing a coworker use the restroom and then hearing the bathroom door close without proper handwashing. Or, hearing them wash their hands at all. Fecal matter, E-coli, and staphylococcus has been found on many common surfaces in offices.
Feces, (poop) from people or animals, is an important source of germs to thrive and grow like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea. It can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. Gross right? Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick.
Some people think that just a handshake is a way to pick up someone else’s germs. We use the copy machine, open door handles, touch elevator buttons, and come behind people who did not wash their hands properly. The invisible germs are all around us. The next thing you know…you are getting a prescription for conjunctivitis (pink eye) and can’t figure out where it came from.
So, how do we avoid getting sick in the Petri dish breeding grounds we must work in?
12 Tips to Prevention
- Practice proper handwashing. It may seem elementary but many people are not doing this correctly. The CDC says this is how and when we should wash our hands:
How to wash:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
When to wash:
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the toilet
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage (CDC, n.d.)
2. Use hand sanitizer when necessary
3. Don’t forget to use a Clorox wipe or something of the like to kill germs on your desk, keyboard, phone, etc. once a week.
4. Drink plenty of water
5. Exercise regularly. If you don’t have time for the gym try taking the stairs or taking a couple of short breaks per day to stretch your body and legs. You could encourage others to join you for a daily walking routine.
6. Practice good posture and office ergonomics here is a great article on ergonomics from the Mayo Clinic.
7. Eat a well-balanced diet
8. Try a multivitamin (double up on vitamin C when you feel sluggish, only if your Dr. says it’s okay) In Michigan, we all run a bit low on vitamin D so adding a supplement to your diet can not only strengthen your hair and bones but also be a little mood booster as you might dread your way into the office!
9. Try not to rub your eyes or put your hands in your mouth (i.e. eating finger foods)
10. Promote wellness in your office by working with your HR Team to host healthy living seminars at open enrollment times, or ask your office manager to hang up signs on the benefits of proper handwashing, and create a team to tackle the fridge cleaning weekly.
11. Use migraine relief essential oils to help prevent the onset of headaches, or use a rollerball for stress when you feel it coming on. We have four different rollerballs to choose from in our store that is all organic and our customers love the benefits of using these at work for anxiety, stress, promote calmness, and help prevent migraines. Right now, we are offering a coupon code: GIVETHX for 20% off your total order if you want to check our items out at a discount. We are offering free shipping right now too! RAE SOAP CO. Stress Relief Essential Oil Rollerballs. We use all certified organic, pharmaceutical-grade essential oils.
12. Wash your hands when you get home from work! Of course with proper handwashing, you want to make sure you are using a good quality soap. We have over 20 bars of soap to choose from and they are all organic and all naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial. You can visit our online store to view the varieties we carry here: RAE SOAP CO.
These are just a few small ways to try and stay healthy at work this cold and flu season. Most physicians and healthcare providers recommend the flu shot. Personally, I am allergic to sulfites and the two times in my life I have gotten the shot it was a horrible reaction, landing me in the emergency room. I am extra diligent during this season to stay healthy. Of course, we can’t always control when we get sick but trying our best at prevention is most certainly worth the benefits of improved health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle both in and out of work. Cheers to the healthy season ahead!
CDC. (n.d.). When and How to Wash your Hands. CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html