Theres an eerie feeling that encroaches on offices during the winter monthseveryone is sniffling and drinking hot tea, and theres the incessant cough that seems to travel from one person to the next. You cant help but think that the next cold or flu is coming right for your desk. Before you decide to pack up and work from home forever (if thats even a possibility), we have tips that you can incorporate into your everyday routine thatll keep you healthy and happy at work all winter long.
1. Wash your hands
In many businesses, the public bathroom features a prominent sign reading, Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. You should follow this adviceeven if youre not serving the public. Studies show that simple hand washing can reduce the risk of spreading colds by 21 percent.
In choosing a hand soap, skip the ones labeled antibacterial that contain triclosan, as exposure to the chemical is linked to making bacteria resistant to antibioticsmaking infections harder to treat. For a non-drying, fresh-smelling option, treat yourself and your coworkers to Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap. Its made with aloe vera and olive oil, and free of controversial ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and artificial colorsand comes in 24 pleasing, essential oil-derived fragrances.
In the event that you cant wash up after working in a common area or shaking hands with someone, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that, again, doesnt contain triclosan. Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer uses ethyl alcohol to rid your hands of germs, and ingredients like aloe vera leaf juice and glycerin to add moisture back into your skin.
- Get the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap (3 count) on Amazon for $9.81
- Get the Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer (2 count) on Amazon for $9.35
2. Kill germs around your desk
Theres a reason everyone always says that youre only as clean as your work space... Wait, no one says that, but they should, because your office desk collects dust and bacteria on a daily basis. More scary is that most people clean their desks wrong by not leaving the disinfectant on long enough. The CDC explains that disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (e.g., letting it stand for three to five minutes).
Wipes may seem convenient, but if you really want to kill germs, you need to make sure the surface area is covered in the liquid for the instructed time on the packaging, which likely means youll be using more than one wipe. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes are a good choicethey claim to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria, including eight cold and flu viruses, when the solution they impart stays wet for three minutes.
A spray can make things easier because you can cover the surface area much faster, which you either just leave to dry or wipe away with a cloth or paper towel, depending on the instructions on the packaging. For a trusted disinfectant spray, look (again) to Lysol, which claims to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria when left on surfaces for three minutesand it doesnt need to be wiped away. The spray also prevents mold and mildew, and neutralizes bad odors caused by bacteria.
- Get the Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (3 count) on Amazon for $9.97
- Get the Lysol Disinfectant Spray (2 count) on Amazon for $10.77
3. Clean your electronics, too
If youre like 99 percent of the people out there (no need to fact-check), you probably carry your cellphone with you everywhere. The number of times your phone hits the ground, touches your face, or sits on a table at a public place is a bit alarming if you cant remember the last time you cleaned it. And then theres your computer keyboard and mouse, which are designed to be touched, and therefore can get pretty germy pretty fast. To properly clean your phone, smart watch, computer mouse, or other tech items that you frequently handle, we recommend that you mix 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, with distilled water in a small spray bottle. Then, spray the mixture onto a soft microfiber cloth that wont scratch screens and thoroughly wipe your devices (do not spray them directly!). Its that simplebut it can save you from illness-causing bacteria.
- Get the Solimo 70% Isopropyl Alcohol First Aid Antiseptic with Wintergreen on Amazon for $1.79
- Get the Rayson Empty Spray Bottle on Amazon for $2.86
- Get the MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Clothes (6-Pack) on Amazon for $8.99
4. Keep yourself warm
While being cold doesnt necessarily cause you to get sick, it can sure make work uncomfortable and exasperate any symptoms youre already experiencing.
If you dont currently have a cardigan or sweater that you keep at your desk chair, youll want one nowbut remember to take it home and wash it regularly, especially if youve been sick. The Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Circle Cardigan is a favorite at Nordstrom for a reason. The ultra-soft synthetic sweater is warm and cozy enough to wear around the house, but wont look out of place at the office. Its lightweight and comes in womens sizes x-small/small to large/x-large and nine neutral colors that match any outfit. For an equally cozy option in mens sizes x-small to 4x-large, check out Nordstroms Regular Fit Cashmere Quarter Zip Pullover, which has seven colors to choose from. The cozy cashmere will keep you warm at the office without diminishing your style.
If it's permitted at your office, you may also consider a small space heater to make your space toastier. We recommend the Lasko 754200, which won our Best Value spot after testing because its light, powerful, and affordable. Say goodbye to chilly feet!
- Get the Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Circle Cardigan at Nordstrom for $116
- Get the Regular Fit Cashmere Quarter Zip Pullover at Nordstrom for $79.98
- Get the Lasko 754200 at Walmart for $25.73
5. Dont forget to drink water
You may have no trouble remembering to drink copious amounts of coffee throughout the day, but water may slip your mind. Dehydration may cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and other unpleasant symptoms, leading to you having a less productive work day and potentially decreasing your strength to fight off an illness. To keep you hydrated throughout the day, youll want to make a water bottle your new best friend.
After testing, we recommend the Brita Stainless Steel Filtering Water Bottle. The Brita has a slim build for slipping in and out of car cup holders and bag pockets, but it holds 20 ounces and has a wide mouth to accommodate ice cubes. It also keeps your water cold for up to 24 hours, so youll never have a lukewarm sip during the work day.
6. Be mindful of your food
It may seem like common sense, but its worth reminding that you never want to share food with coworkers who are sick or think they may be coming down with somethingand this includes dipping your fingers in a communal candy dish. It's also important to refrigerate the salad you brought for lunch or the fruit salad youll scarf down mid-morning when you realize lunch is too far away. Fresh foods are susceptible to spoiling if theyre left out above 40F (the temperature of the fridge) for more than two hours, according to the USDA.
To keep your food locked up tight in the shared work fridge, you need well-made food storage containers. For an affordable set with tons of size variety, we recommend the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Storage Containers. This 42-piece set is made of thick, durable plastic, is designed for the microwave, and keeps food fresher for longer, according to our tests.
7. Cover your cough and sneezes
It sounds simple enough to cover a cough and a sneeze, but everyone has watched someone openly cough in the office, causing coworkers to slowly retreat. Covering your cough isnt going to keep you from getting sick, but it may keep you from passing along your cold to someone else and its a simple way to keep your office environment cleaner. Its good practice to not cover your mouth or nose with your bare hand, which youre likely to touch on something else before you get to a sink or hand sanitizer to clean those germs away. In a pinch, your upper sleeve is your go-to, but keeping some tissues nearby is even better. Our favorite are the Puffs Ultra Soft Facial Tissues, which feel more like a lightweight handkerchief than an easily-shredded piece of cotton. Once youre done with a tissue, dispose of it in the waste basket instead of keeping it on you for future sneezes.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.