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How to Survive during Bring Your Bacteria To Work Season

Posted by: Kathie Higginson

As we approach Autumn (the Fall) (21st September), some people in offices and non-office jobs all over the world are suffering the paradoxical “summer cold”. Despite the heat and the cover-your-eyes sunshine, the sweats people are getting seem to be from an unexpected fever. 

There are many encroaching threats: the incoming colder weather, more frequent rains, children back to school (we all know that classrooms are bacterial and viral hotbeds), and, if you live in a city centre… the incoming university students are about to conspire against you and unknowingly create The Freshers’ Flu. 

Just thinking about ever having Freshers’ Flu again makes me feel a little hot of temple and heavy of eyes. 

If most businesses set up tally charts in their office between now (the end of August), and the beginning of 2018 – tally charts recording the people in the office who come down with a common cold, or a more malign flu… would anybody escape this chart? It’s highly unlikely. Sure, fruit, vegetables, multivitamins, plenty of water and milk, and weekly exercise can all conflate to increase a person’s overall health; however, when subjected to so many bacteria on a daily basis as a person trapped within an office… the inevitable happens. 

People get sick. 

The majority of companies provide employees with a number of paid sick days. If those are used up entirely, two options remain: use any remaining holidays to recover from your illness, or take an unpaid sick day to rest up. 

But the 21st century office culture, all over the UK at least, seems to have a third option if paid sick leave has been exhausted: Bring Your Bacteria to Work Day. Again and again and again. 

What causes such madness? What causes you, or your colleagues, to turn up with a crimson nose, to close all the windows (who thought that the best way to stay warm and healthy was to prevent fresh air from circulating through the office and to incubate all of the bacteria?!), and to be the cause of widespread phone interruptions? Yes, the person on the other end of the line can hear every cough. Just like you can hear the coughing in their office. 

Well, having done some questioning, some researching, and some thinking, here are some of the reasons that the seasonal mucous people in the world’s various office jobs stumble into work. 

- To prove something to their self or their boss. But can anyone really operate at full capacity when dosed up on painkillers and lemsip? 
- Deadlines. 
- Time off would mean too much work to catch up on. 
- Job insecurity. Really? It seems unlikely that a level-headed employer, who has likely suffered the perils of the common cold her or himself before, is going to order your head closer to the chopping block because of your immune system. 
- Unpaid sick leave would mean financial losses. 
- Expectations from management. 
- 100% attendance bonuses at the end of year. (Cue the eerie sci-fi music and generic perilous film quotes about "The Corporation".) 

Okay, I’ll permit that financial strains can make a day of unpaid sick leave hard to justify. But, perhaps one of the suggestions I’m about to make could be a suggestion for remedy. 

A few wide-ranging suggestions for making life easier for yourself and your colleagues when you’re sick:  

- Organise an opportunity to work from home. What you immediately cut out here is the exposure to other ill people. You can access your own water supply, your fridge for milk, your own fruit and vegetables, and any medication in your cupboards. The hard part is following through with the work promises. Your boss will likely only agree to an idea like this one if you can provide quantifiable "work done" at the end of the day, and if you are available through communication means continuously during the day: phone, email, or a professional instant messenger such as Skype for Business, LinkedIn, or Google Hangouts could do the trick. (Flexible bosses required).
- Sanitise everything! Tissues, hand wipes, hand soaps. Your hands need to be as bacteria- and germ-free as possible during flu season. Wipe down all surfaces daily. Desk, mouse, keyboard, your regular pen, phone. Anti-bacterial hand-gel costs £1 and can be bought from almost anywhere these days. 
- Keep your germs to yourself. Cover your mouth when you cough and use a tissue when you’re about to sneeze. You’ve got a cold, so there’s no excuse for not having tissues to hand. 
- Keep your distance. People will forgive you for not wanting to shake hands or engage in success-celebrating hugs if you warn them that you’re trying to fight a cold. Being vigilant about fighting germs will also likely demonstrate diligence on your part – never a bad thing! 

Now what are you waiting for – the hot water for your lemsip won’t heat itself!

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