Surviving Cold and Flu Season (At Home and In The Workplace)

The first article of our new “Mompreneur” series, we tackle how to survive cold and flu season as a working mother (with limited sick days).

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This is the first of a new series, Mompreneur, a column for working mothers, written by working mothers. First up: surviving cold and flu season.

It’s the call every working mom dreads. Jimmy spiked a fever and is coughing. Susie’s tugging on her ear and won’t stop screaming. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 (or your paycheck) just come and get your sick child immediately.

The winter months are notorious for dealing a blow to workplace productivity, and unfortunately, absenteeism can often be traced back to sick kids. If a particularly nasty cold or flu virus is circulating around school or daycare, chances are you—and your teammates—are at risk.  All those hours you spent reinforcing the importance of sharing with your kid? You didn’t realize you were creating the next Typhoid Mary…or Larry.

Thankfully, the medical community has a pretty good understanding of how cold and flu viruses spread—and there are a number of simple things you can do to help protect your kids, yourself, and your coworkers from getting sick this flu season.

An ounce of prevention

Pretty much everyone knows that handwashing is the key to stopping the spread of germs. Unfortunately, knowing about hand washing doesn’t always translate into good hand washing practice. Teaching little kids to hum “Happy Birthday” while scrubbing is a fun and easy way to make sure they do a thorough job, but it’s not quite as easy to police your colleagues after every cough and sneeze.

Make sure that pump-dispenser bottles of unscented hand sanitizer are easily accessible throughout the workplace and home and model good hand hygiene by using it frequently. Encourage employees to wipe down their workspace, keyboards and telephones with sanitizing wipes at the end of each day and pay special to public areas like kitchens and bathrooms and high-touch surfaces like door knobs.  And don’t be shy about not shaking hands. Clients and colleagues will thank you.

The flu vaccine is another slam-dunk way to add an extra layer of protection. Nearly all insurance companies cover flu shots and you don’t have to spend hours waiting at the doctor’s office to get jabbed these days. Grocery and department stores with pharmacies often provide this service and some places even offer incentives for getting vaccinated. Local health departments frequently run vaccine clinics for kids so you don’t have to make an extra trip to the pediatrician. Get your children vaccinated early into the flu season and encourage team mates to take a long lunch and come back with the tell-tale badge of public health honor: a Band-Aid on the deltoid.

A favorite of healthcare professionals, the disposable face mask is another low-cost strategy with a high payoff during cold and flu season. Donning a thin surgical face mask keeps germs from entering or exiting your mouth and nose while you work or care for your children. You might feel silly at first, but protecting your PTO from getting eaten up by sickness is no laughing matter.

Making it count when you’re down for the count

If you or your kids do succumb to a bug, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and the company is to stay home. While this concept is anathema to most mompreneurs, it really is key to shortening the duration of an illness and stopping the virus from taking out the whole office.

Veteran teachers keep ready-to-go lesson plans in their desk so substitutes can take over at a moment’s notice and savvy working moms can adapt this practice to keep business running as usual. Take the time to organize your calendar and task-list, noting important deadlines and meetings that can be handled by team members.

Finally, the relationships between stress and a weakened immune system is well documented, so for the good or your kids and your business, book yourself a massage right away.

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