Flu season generally lasts about four months between December-March. That’s why flu shots begin to roll out in September, October and November for most people. But as you know, colds and flus can happen at any time. (Anyone who has small children or shares a workspace with others can tell you how difficult it is to stay healthy year-round.) To help, we put together some proven ways you can prevent cold and flu outbreaks in multifamily residences and commercial properties.
1. Put hand sanitizer stations & lotion in communal spaces
Many office buildings have hand sanitizer stations placed at strategic locations. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to eliminate cold and flu germs and prevent infections from spreading. Here’s where you might want to put them:
- Reception desks and lobbies
- Near stairwells on each floor
- Near entrances and exits
- Outside public restrooms
By the way, hand sanitizer and even soap can quickly dry out our hands. Stock up on lotion in offices, restrooms, break rooms and communal areas to help everyone keep their hands smooth and healthy.
Gift idea for multifamily
If it’s in your budget, consider leaving small sanitizer squeeze bottles in your residents’ mailboxes. Stock extras in case anyone asks for more. If you really want to go all out, include a handwritten note reminding residents to protect themselves during cold and flu season (and where they can get flu shots nearby).
2. Place disinfecting wipes around the office
In addition to hand sanitizer, keep disinfecting wipes readily available. Non-bleach wipes are best, as bleach is an irritant to your hands, eyes, mouth, etc. Some viruses can live for days on indoor surfaces, so in addition to regular custodial cleanings, give your team the ability to disinfect their area as needed.
There are natural, chemical-free cleaners as well, but it may be harder to assess their effectiveness.
While we wrote this section with commercial settings in mind, multifamily property managers can still protect their on-site office and resident communal spaces with sanitizer dispensers and disinfecting wipes. Better to have than have not!
3. Stay home if you’re sick
We all know someone who hates taking a day off, even if they have the cold or flu. (That person might be you.) Hopefully, your business provides enough sick days for your employees. They should feel comfortable taking those days off without fear of letting down their coworkers or supervisors.
Lead by example. If you’re sick, just stay home. Luckily, mobile-friendly property management software means you can work from anywhere. The right platform will let you control security for all users down to the menu level, so your entire team can work remote as well.
4. Use face masks when appropriate
Face masks can be used to help prevent cold and flu transmission, but masks are not an excuse to keep sick and contagious individuals at work. Sick employees should be allowed to recover at home. When you send someone home who isn’t well, you’re also sending a signal to the rest of your team that you prioritize everyone’s health and wellbeing.
5. Post signs reminding employees to wash their hands
Many businesses, such as restaurants, are legally required to post signs reminding employees to wash their hands. While such laws may not always apply to property management companies, it’s still a good idea to post a friendly reminder. Don’t forget to keep soap dispensers full at all times.
Pro tip: Scrub your hands for 20 seconds with soap before rinsing with warm water. That’s about how long it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
6. Don’t touch your face
“Get your finger out of there,” sounds like advice parents give their kids, but they say it for good reason. Many germs get into our bodies from our hands, which collect germs from various surfaces. Your eyes, nose and mouth are like welcome passages for bacteria and viruses. You can help prevent transmission by washing or sanitizing your hands, especially when you’re sick or around people who may have a cold or the flu.
7. Keep trash bins & dumpster lids closed
Closed trash bins do more than prevent stinky garbage smells from getting out into the world. Shut lids also keep flies out. When flies land on food, they pick up viruses and bacteria. If those same flies land on other surfaces, including your food and body, there’s chance that they’ll spread whatever it is they picked up.
8. Maintain & disinfect restrooms
It’s important to clean and disinfect both staff and community restrooms daily. This includes emptying all trash bins, stocking up on toilet paper, refilling the soap, keeping a clean plunger next to the toilet, etc.
9. Encourage residents & employees to cover their mouths when they sneeze
The best way to sneeze is to do it right into a tissue. If that’s not available, dip your head into the inside of your elbow to sneeze. Doing so helps prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. Remember to wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately after you sneeze.
- Post “how-to” signs in communal spaces
- Send an email or text with friendly reminders about hygiene during cold and flu season
- Watch: Even adults need a reminder sometimes
10. Provide on-site flu shots
Even if you offer health benefits, not everyone is going to take time off or use their sick leave to get a flu shot. If you offer them on-site for free or at a low cost, you’re showing your employees that you truly care about their health and well-being.
Here are a few companies that provide onsite vaccinations:
Flu shot providers can set up stations in your community room or office — anywhere there’s space. To help offset the cost to your business, don’t be afraid to charge a small fee. For reference, it costs about $20-40 at a clinic — high-dose shots for seniors are a little more expensive.
Remember to spread the word
There’s no point in providing flu shots if your residents don’t know you’re doing it! Use your community newsletter and/or your property management blog to highlight when your mobile clinic will be on-site.
11. Host a nutrition class for residents
There’s no cure for a cold or flu, but a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can help boost your immune system. Good nutrition can prevent illness, help you recover faster and/or lessen the intensity of an infection. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to plain steamed broccoli. A cooking class can help you and your residents make food that tastes good.
Plus, many residents enjoy it when their property hosts events. You can host a nutrition class yourself or ask if any residents would like to host it. Better yet, bring in a local business. They might do it for free since they’re getting a chance to promote themselves.
12. Improve the air quality in your office
By improving office ventilation and air quality, you help prevent cold and flu viruses from recirculating around the office and getting people sick. Commercial HVAC systems must be maintained to keep humidity levels low, preventing the buildup of bacteria and other trapped air contaminants.
Track all HVAC problems, maintenance activities and inspections. Knowing what’s been done in the past can help quickly resolve issues that come up down the road.
Encourage residents to invest in an air purifier
Multifamily residents can easily improve the air quality in their own apartments. A quick online search for the best home air purifiers shows hundreds of options. Most will feature a HEPA filter, which captures viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen, etc. Others offer a carbon filter, which is ideal for removing smoke contaminants and other odors (great for those who live in wildfire-prone areas). Some products are 2-in-1 HEPA/carbon air filters, which offer more protection but tend to be more expensive. Encourage residents to find one that’s right for their budget and situation.
Disclaimer on cold & flu prevention
This article was prepared for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal or medical consultation, must not be acted upon as such and is subject to change without notice. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional for medical advice.