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7 Tips for Keeping Germs at Bay and Staying Healthy in the Open Office

The cold and dark months of winter usually present ideal conditions for cozying up in the comfort of our own homes to read a book, binge-watch a TV show or spend quality time with our loved ones indoors. During this time, we rarely feel the need to go out into the wet and bitter cold, but we inevitably have to leave the house at some point to buy groceries, meet up with friends and, naturally, go to work.

These places all present environments where you’re at risk of falling ill. If your workplace is in a shared, open-office-style setting, then you’re especially prone to getting sick, according to a 2011 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health. Despite the common misconception that getting a cold this time of year is somewhat natural, there are many different things you can actually do to prevent that from happening.

Check out a few tricks and tips which you can leisurely carry out in your daily routine that can help keep germs at bay:

1. Wash your hands often

We hope it doesn’t actually come as news to anyone that you need to wash your hands often. A wide range of bacteria and germs can spread and infect other people if you don’t do this simple act correctly. The CDC advises that a proper hand wash consists of wetting your hands with running water, rubbing them together with soap whilst lathering under your nails and between your fingers, followed by 20 seconds of intense scrubbing, rinsing them clean afterward, and drying your hands with a clean paper towel or by the air-drying machine to conclude the process.

2. Regularly wipe down surfaces

Keep your desk clean and virus-free by routinely wiping down not only your desk but also other objects that are frequently touched by you and your colleagues. This includes your notebooks, journals, pens and even (or should we say, especially!) your phones. Disinfecting wipes that you can keep on your desk can be a stark reminder to regularly wipe down your surfaces and are a quick and easy solution to making this process as effortless as possible.

3. Drink up and take your vitamins

A very simple but often neglected thing anyone can do to beneficially contribute to their health is to stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluids is not only important during the hot summer months, but is also essential in the winter, since it helps maintain pretty much every system in your body. Furthermore, you might consider taking a few vitamin supplements in these months, which are characterized by scarce natural light and low temperatures. Vitamin C and Vitamin D are both considered beneficial to boosting immunity.

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4. Tune out the noise and enjoy your personal space

Researchers found that people can improve their productivity when they have control over their space, which is often quite hard to achieve in an open-space setting. But even if getting some alone time proves to be difficult in an environment with continuous background noise breaking one’s concentration, making us anxious and stressed, it’s important to strive for some privacy, even if it only means putting on some headphones to tune out the office commotion. Listening to relaxing music at work can improve your productivity and decrease your stress levels, which in turn benefits your overall wellbeing and health.

5. Improve air quality in the office

One aspect many people overlook is the importance of fresh air in the office. You might not even notice, but spending one-third of your day in an open space with dusty, stuffy air can cause a wide variety of health problems. To remedy the situation, you could read about 10 ways to improve air quality in your office and try to implement as many tactics as you can, which will certainly help keep germs at bay.

6. Work remotely during a flu outbreak

Once you start noticing that your coworkers slowly but surely start to fall victim to a massive flu outbreak, you might want to consider staying away. If your company is open to allowing employees to work remotely every now and then, this might be the perfect time to make arrangements. You might want to avoid other germ-infected places like coworking hubs and coffee shops until the epidemic dies down, and opt to work from home instead.

7. Stay home if you’re sick

If the worst has happened and you managed to catch the flu, please stay home. Give yourself time to get better again and don’t, in any case, try to power through, go to work and pretend that everything’s fine and you’re not feeling sick. You risk prolonging your own illness and, worst of all, contaminating your colleagues along the way.

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