Friday, December 08, 2006

Public health and personal responsibility

A senior executive at a major company here, taking note of the number of workers currently absent with colds or flu, has diagnosed the problem as -- messy desks. A clean ship is a healthy ship, he reasons, and everyone is being required to throw away old papers and other clutter from their personal workspace.

I have my own ideas about workplace illness, and a key point is the culture that encourages people to show up for work when they're obviously still sick. These job heroes may look tough and dedicated, but they also spread the virus of the day. They actually hurt both their company and their colleagues. This is especially bad when workers must share desks and equipment, and doubly so if the workers try to eat at their desks.

So here's my own prescription for healthy workplaces:
If you have a cold or flu, stay home until you're well. If you get flu, remember that you were contagious the day before you got symptoms -- so alert your coworkers that they need to take extra care in handwashing, etc.

Do clean your workspace each day, and use hand sanitizer or Lysol wipes if you have to use someone else's space.

Break away for your meals, and wash before you take food of any kind.

If you haven't already gotten the flu shot, do so. And put it on your 2007 calendar for as early as October 1. (I was sandbagged by waiting for a shot at the office and coming down sick before I could get the shot.)

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