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Even a Small Sniffle Can Bring Down a Big Office

Article January 14, 2018  |  Text by Nina Černá Text by Nina Černá

Winter is more than just Christmas and fun in the snow. It’s also a time with lots of flus, colds, and other infectious diseases. The flu virus, for example, revels in winter, so from November to March it experiences an annual comeback in our hemisphere. And as we all know, there’s always that one co-worker who just won’t take an illness as a reason to lie at home in bed. He heads off to work as a loudly groaning hero and passes his infection on among his teammates. How can you defend yourself?

The most important, but most frequently overlooked prevention method is of course for people not to head to work while sick, but this runs into several fundamental labor and welfare issues, the most intense of which are the daily bills. Often the office will be occupied by several infection carriers at once, who (un)consciously go on sowing sickness in unison.

Infection spreads quickly in a team, even several days before and after an illness’s immediate symptoms (though of course you can hardly predict when one will start). But if you already have coughers in your offices (or if you’re one of them), then it’s highly appropriate to pay increased attention to strengthening your immunity, to hygiene (both your own and office-wide), and most of all to being considerate towards your workmates.

Photo by Rémi Walle/Unsplash

Clean Hands Are Half of Health

Washing your hands with soap and warm water should be a matter of course for you no matter what, but when you’re sick or you are touching the same objects as infected people, it’s smart to do this more often. In the periods with the highest infection rates, disinfecting gels or hand sprays are also a proven aid.

Sharing a Cup? Maybe You’re Sharing Germs.

Disinfect other infection hot-spots as well — the copier, keyboards, door handles, and the handle of your office’s electric kettle are all ideal transport stations on the way to your body. After all, a virus can hold out for up to 48 hours on a smooth surface. For it to land there, it’s enough for someone who’s ill to cover their cough with their hand and then touch the item in question. Such as your favorite coffeemaker. Would you like a cappuccino? Or perhaps a week sick in bed is more to your fancy?

Drops, Drops Everywhere

Whenever someone sneezes, viruses fly from their mouth out to a distance of up to 1.5 meters. Unfortunately, a tissue in front of the mouth isn’t a matter of course for every cougher, so if you’re around someone like this, you can also go the “Asian route” and put on a surgical mask. This also applies for your time in public transport and other places with high concentrations of people. People with weakened immunity will especially appreciate this approach, to the point where they won’t really care about any uncomprehending stares from their workmates or fellow-travelers. And it apparently will be they who laugh last (inaudibly, of course, under their masks).

Ventilation vs. Heating

A popular source of quarrels and disputes among the inhabitants of a single office space. In the cold season the truth is clearly on the side of ventilation — at least once per hour.  Ventilating through open windows will help to replace and moisten the air in a room. (Cold viruses don’t like moisture — they prefer 20% or lower humidity, and at 80% or higher, they don’t spread at all.) As for central heating, it’s of dubious value as regards the spread of viruses and bacteria. Not only does it dry out your skin and mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to infections, but it also can be a source, or rather a carrier, of infected air.

Photo by Milo McDowell/Unsplash

Strengthening Your Defenses

Even hands washed a hundred times don’t make up for a loss of natural immunity, which really takes a beating in the winter. So, don’t forget to take care of yourself alongside taking care of your hygiene. Take care to head out for fresh air and to get plenty of vitamins (ideally from natural foods), liquids, sleep, and calm. Head out to the sauna or go for a massage and use the winter for its natural purpose: regeneration and rest.

Did you know that...

  • The Latin name for the flu is Influenza; it comes, however, from Italian, and originated from the designation of viruses as adverse astrological influences causing disease.
  • During the “Spanish Flu” pandemic (1918–1919), more people died than had fallen in World War I.
  • Unlike colds, the flu only rarely leads to a runny nose, while on the other hand temperatures of 38° C and higher are no exception.
  • Flu epidemics in Europe generally spread from West to East.