Flu season is in full swing and the worst is yet to come. Reports are showing this year is already one of the worst flu seasons on record and will likely worsen, which could mean bad news for your workplace.
In a typical year, the flu causes about 70 million missed workdays and an estimated $10 billion in lost office productivity. But there are ways to keep employees healthy and productive. Staples recently conducted a flu survey to show an office's points of weakness during flu season. It revealed that the nation's workforce is undereducated when it comes to flu prevention, with nearly 80 percent of office workers saying they go to work sick and more than half not cleaning their workspaces often enough to disinfect germs that live on surfaces for up to three days.
While the first step toward prevention is to get a flu shot, there are additional steps you can take to help prevent the spread of germs — particularly in the workplace:
• Clean and disinfect commonly touched and personal surfaces. Think of how many people touch those door handles, copiers, conference room phones and water coolers, to name a few. Sanitizing surfaces frequently is critical to keeping germs at bay. Even if a surface appears to be clean, it could be harboring germs, so it's important to establish regular cleaning routines.
Don't forget about items at your desk. Studies show that one-third of employees believe their keyboards and phones are the dirtiest items in the office — but less than 10 percent say they clean them often. Equip the office with disinfecting wipes so employees can take action.

• Take advantage of technology and encourage telecommuting. For those times when pressing projects make it difficult to take a sick day, technology can enable employees to still work without leaving a trail of infection behind. It's easy and often economical for companies to provide the technology tools and know-how that contribute to a healthy work-at-home environment.

• Keep healthy snacks around to boost immunity. A healthy diet is an important first step toward a strong immune system. As such, encouraging healthy eating habits is another way to promote wellness in the workplace.  Restock the breakroom with healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables and other smart snack options to help boost immune systems.

• Educate your staff. Consider formal education campaigns, including newsletters and informative posters, that encourage employees to "cover your cough" and "sneeze in your sleeve" (not hands!) when a tissue is unavailable, while also highlighting the importance of handwashing.

To view additional survey results, click here.