Prevent Illness at Work; Live Like an Ant!

Posted by: Kristin Behler
Date: November 16, 2015

This cold and flu season, prevent illness by living more like an ANT.

Yes, that is correct, I said “Ant.” No, this is not a typo; I do not want you to be more like your Aunt Sue, but rather more like the small insect that is most well-known for ruining your picnic.  The recent research on Ants, as published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, has revealed that when Ants are sick they become unsociable.

Have you ever observed the following? An employee comes into the office looking and sounding unwell, they tell you they feel horrible, but there they are sitting right next to you or another employee using up a box of tissues as they cough and sneeze their way through the day. Have you thought to yourself…why are they here? Why did they not take a sick day?

Research has shown that Ants have better manners than many humans. Since they live and work in close proximity to one another, Ants take it upon themselves to radically change their behavior when they are ill to reduce the risk of contaminating the colony. Sick Ants limit their social interactions and spend most of their time outside of the colony when ill.

It appears that Ants learn this behavior from an early age. Young Ants that are ill are not welcome in the colony. Young Ants are physically removed from the colony. Later in life if they become ill they remove themselves on their own, knowing that it is best to keep the rest of the colony healthy.

So, how can we be more like an Ant you ask?

Leadership should encourage employees to stay home if they are ill. Just like the young Ant, leadership should teach employees that it is best for the organization to keep most people healthy.

  • Sick Policy – review your sick policy and determine if it encourages or discourages people from staying home when they are ill and make any necessary changes.
  • Be a Role Model – This goes a long way. When you stay home when you are sick it shows others what is expected of them.

Educate your employees on ways they can help to prevent illness in the office. Share the following:

  • Use your sleeve or a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. By covering your nose and mouth you can prevent droplets from spreading.
  • Know the The Importance of Hand Hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. You can spread germs by touching a contaminated object and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Know when it is time to visit a Primary Care Physician, Urgent Care or an Emergency room.

To learn more about best practices to improve the health and wellness of employees in your office, please contact us.

Disclaimer: The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.