Heading back to the office? Nine expert tips to protect yourself from flu

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When you’ve been working from home or on annual leave for a while, returning to the office can feel a bit daunting.

There’s the looming email overwhelm to consider, all the tasks you might need to catch up on, and a healthy dose of FOMO lingering from however long you were away.

Then there’s another worry: am I going to pick up everyone else’s germs and swiftly get sick?

Lots of us have picked up back-to-work coughs and colds, and frankly, we’d rather not face that again.

The good news: there are some steps we can take to protect ourselves.

‘As more people return to office working or more days per week in the office there will be more bugs circulating there,’ Lesley White, a health and safety advisor at Boots, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘This does increase the risk of picking up an illness.

‘For those who have been regularly spending time indoors with lots of other people outside of work e.g. in bars, restaurants or the cinema, this probably won’t have such a significant effect.

‘However, those people who have been working from home and haven’t mixed much indoors with lots of other people may find that their immune system isn’t as “primed” to fight infection as it usually would be and may find they are more prone to picking up illness.’

Worried you might fall into that latter group? Make sure you’re doing these things…

Make sure your diet is in great shape

We know it’s tempting to reach for all the heavy carbs and oven-baked cheeses once autumn rolls around, but don’t neglect your fruit and veg intake.

Eating a healthy, varied diet with all the vitamins and minerals you need is key for keeping your immune system fighting fit.

Take vitamin D supplements

‘The government recommend we all take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D through autumn and winter to help support bones and muscles, and this will also help support the immune system,’ says Lesley.

Prioritise sleep

It might not feel super cool to have a bedtime, but it really is vital.

As you head back to the office, make sure you’ve got a solid sleep routine in place and are getting plenty of good quality slumber – it’s a key part of immune system function.

Sleep gives your body the time it needs to rest and repair, which is why you feel so tired when you’re unwell – sleep is your body’s chance to fix whatever’s wrong.

Ask for some tissues and bins for your desks

Ever witnessed your co-worker sneeze directly on to their computer screen?

As well as being gross, this is a health hazard. Encourage everyone in the office to sneeze or cough into a tissue, then put this straight in the bin – making sure there’s a tissue box and a trash can within easy reach will help make this a habit.

Exercise

Regular exercise is a great thing for many reasons, and one of those is that it can help protect you from sickness.

According to research, moderate-intensity exercise can help to increase the circulation of immune cells, allowing your body to better prepare for future infection by detecting it earlier.

Exercise can also help you sleep and lower stress – which in turn supports immune function.

Get a flu jab if you can

‘If you are eligible for an NHS flu jab, then make sure you have one. If you are not eligible for an NHS flu jab, then you may want to access one privately,’ Lesley recommends. ‘Boots offers the free NHS flu jab for eligible adults and also offers a private winter flu jab service* at a wide range of locations at a time that suits you.’

Keep an eye on stress

Excess stress is not good for your mind or body, and it can make you more prone to picking up illness.

Make sure to maintain proper work/life boundaries (leave on time, and when you’re not working, try to do non-work things), speak to your manager if you can feel burnout looming, and find stress-relief techniques that work for you.

Open the windows

Remember all the advice we were given about reducing the spread of Covid? That applies to flu and other respiratory viruses, too.

‘If you are in an indoor space with other people, try to ensure there is some ventilation,’ Lesley advises.

Open up the windows to get fresh air circulating throughout the office.

Keep up your hygiene practices

You know the drill: sanitise your workspace, wash your hands frequently, keep things clean. All good practices that will help you avoid picking up whatever nasty bugs might be making their way through your workplace.

*Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria apply. Charges may apply. See http://www.boots.com/flu for more details. Eligible adults living in areas where the free NHS flu vaccination is not offered in pharmacies can get this from their GP or in Scotland, at a vaccination centre.

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