insights on communication skills

Insights on Communication Skills and Relationship Building

Etiquette Thoughts: Cold and Flu Communication

Posted by Bridget Beirne on October 25, 2012

Etiquette thoughts to help you and your co-workers stay healthy in the office.

etiquette thoughts 2Overheard at your office this time of year:

“Hey Cindy, how are you today?”

“Ugh, Dave, not good. I have a cold. I feel awful.”

*Dave grabs computer, notepads, coffee, blazer, and writing utensils in one fell swoop.* “Don’t breathe on me, don’t talk to me, don’t come near me. Lose my phone number. In fact, don’t use the office phones at all. You know what, don’t even email me. What was your name again?”

During cold and flu season, an errant sneeze is often met with a reaction similar to one given to the plague. Overly busy schedules cause people to fear taking sick days, and we don’t always have the luxury of staying home. No one wants to get sick, but there’s a better way to handle things when you or a coworker feel under the weather at work.

First of all, telling your coworkers to take a hike due to their cold is rude. Honestly.  Should your colleague say that they have a cold, or let slip an uncontrollable sneeze, there is no need to tell them to stop breathing the office air. They know they’re sick, and they aren’t looking to get you ill (we hope!). Should you feel the need to move away from the patient, try being polite about it: “Cindy, you clearly aren’t feeling well- I’m so sorry! Please don’t take it personally, but I’m going to step away a bit- I’ve got a full plate right now and I can’t lose the days. Would you like a lozenge?”  Definitely more considerate than saying, “Don’t come near me!”

What if you are the sickee? Realistically, we can’t stay home every time we sniffle (sorry!).  So, if you must go to work when you’re not feeling your best, help your officemates out! The inverse of the phrase above will help:  “Guys, forgive me for standing at a distance today. I’m not feeling so well and I don’t want to get anyone sick. Let the hand sanitizing commence!”  Keep these best practices from the CDC in mind as you go through your day. (Since handshakes are of the utmost importance, coughing or sneezing into your upper arm or elbow is a must- no one wants to shake the hand you just sneezed into!)

Most importantly, be sure to know your limits. There’s a big difference between not feeling your best and being truly ill.  You’re not helping anyone (yourself included!) if you bring the flu into the office. If your doctor (or your gut) tells you you’ve hit your limit, listen. Allowing an illness to escalate might cost you a week instead of a day.

Of course, if you can avoid being sick all together, that’s the best solution! While we’re not doctors, we can all agree that hand sanitizers, healthy eating, and plenty of rest is a good way to go. And while the jury is still out on Vitamin C, it certainly can’t hurt!



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Topics: Building Relationships, Communication