13 Ways to Keep Your Employees Healthy & Safe

by Chef Kristen Thibeault

Amid growing concern and anxiety about the CoronaVirus, our clients are scrambling against what feels like a hyperlapse clock to find effective ways to keep their employees healthy and safe while still conducting business to protect everyone’s financial security and well-being. 

The US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released guidelines as strategies for preventing the spread of the Coronavirus in the workplace. Here are some additional recommendations, by leading health and wellness experts, we wanted to share to help keep everyone safe and healthy in your office.

1. Reduce Stress.

Everyone is feeling the stress of “what if” due to the potential dangers of the Coronavirus. When we feel stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones which tax our immune system. According to Harvard Medical Review, one of the most important ways to boost immunity is to reduce stress. To reduce stress, it’s key to ensure your team takes breaks and that your office culture offers some calming and relaxing stress-reduction techniques, like mindfulness, yoga, and healthy eating. A few quick and easy ways to help your team include:

  • Playing mindfulness music throughout the office.
  • Bring in a yoga or mindfulness instructor to offer relaxing “moments” throughout the day.
  • Offering one-on-one coaching for any team member that is feeling anxiety due to the potential virus.
  • Sharing information about stress reducing nutrients in your company newsletter. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends supplementing your diet with adrenal support adaptogenics like Ashwaganda, Holy basil, Turmeric, and Vitamin C. The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, among them, cortisol. Under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream which make us feel tired and opens us up to viral infections.
  • Ensure your team has access to lots of healthy greens, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and purified water. This will help keep the troops calm, hydrated and well. 

2. Get Outside and Move.

Institute a 30 minute wellness walk for everyone to get outside, breath fresh air and be in the sun. There’s buckets of evidence that moving your body and getting your juices flowing will help promote feelings of well-being, reduce stress, and boost your immunity. Studies done at UC Berkeley, have shown that physical activity protects against symptoms of anxiety and getting your heart rate up each day, just by taking a small walk, will lower the risk of many chronic conditions. Additionally, a good dose of sunshine provides Vitamin D, which is known to support our immune system and fight off viruses.

3. Stay Hydrated.

Remind your team to keep drinking water. Provide personalized water bottles for everyone. Your team should avoid sodas and other sugary drinks and limit coffee and alcohol  if possible. Eat more watery fruits and vegetables including melons, berries, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, and tomatoes.

4. Make sure your team is eating right.

Offer healthy catered breakfast, lunch and dinner to your team that provides nutritionally dense food served by a reliable food partner with experience in nutrition and food safety.

  • Chef Kristen Thibeault, Founder of NIBLL, California’s #1 fastest growing food company notes that “companies should look to corporate caterers that offer plant-focused meals rich in vegetables like kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and other immune supporting plant-based foods and have the experience in providing high performance food that supports wellness.” Other key steps include reducing processed sugar, fried food and bad fats around the office, which are the leading cause of chronic illness and immune dysfunction.
  • As the unknown risks of brokered restaurant food cause greater concern, consider instead partnering with a corporate caterer that manages 100% of the production and delivery involved including sourcing, preparation, set up, on-site service, and can better ensure the safety and integrity of the food they serve.
    • Have your caterer provide poly gloves to anyone going through the buffet line. Since Coronavirus is not food borne, but can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, make sure you keep your meal service area safe by eliminating anyone touching food related surfaces and shared service utensils.
    • Ideally, have your caterer serve the food rather than having a self-serve buffet line to reduce the risk of contamination.

5. Snack Wall Overhaul.

Lots of hands touching open food items is not a good idea. Remove any unwrapped items from your snack wall, like bagels and breads, whole fruit, and gallons of milk and replace with individually wrapped items and single-use foods and beverages. Support everyone’s immune system with foods and beverages high in Vitamin C including kale chips, dried apricots, orange juice and other citrus beverages. Using a snack provider like SnackNation can ensure your employees have healthy choices that are also safely packaged and can be shipped anywhere.

6. Team Kitchen / Break Room Re-Vamp.

We don’t think about it, but the break room kitchen can harbor a lot of dangerous germs. 

  • Double-check the water temperature on all office kitchen dishwashers and sinks to ensure the temperature exceeds 180 degrees to ensure proper sanitation.
  • Move to disposable individually wrapped utensils and single use disposable cups, coffee cups, plates and bowls.
  • Get rid of sponges and dish towels that can harbor germs and bacteria.
  • Do not allow team members to store food brought from home in a shared refrigerator because you can not manage what germs are brought in on containers that could contaminate other peoples food.
  • Provide a hands-free garbage can.

7. Take Care of Your Home-Bound Employees.

 Some companies are encouraging staff to work from home. You will want to ensure your home-bound team has access to healthy food options as well. Support your employees even if they work from home by offering a healthy meal service so they avoid ordering takeout and potentially unsafe deliveries. Corporate caterers like NIBLL, offer service extensions to their daily on-site service to accommodate employees working from home either on a short or long term basis. Millennials comprise 80 million workers in our workforce and they spend the highest share of their budgets on restaurants and delivered food compared to other generations. Generation Y is more apt to eat out in quick-service restaurants and order food delivery than any other worker. Technomic’s Generational report cites that in 3 out of 5 cases millennials order food delivery or visit restaurants for takeout. This trend opens up your team to increased exposure and risk. Educate your team on precautions they should take at home and offer to provide meals for them while they are working from home.

8. Get More Sleep!

Educate your team on the importance of a good night’s sleep and resting. According to Dr. Brynn Dredia,  a Mayo Clinic sleep neurologist, “Sleep is critical in warding off illness. Lack of sleep can affect your immune system and studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus.” Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night.

9. Make it Company Culture to ”keep your distance.”

The coronavirus is transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, droplets containing virus particles are released. If you are standing close, you can become infected. “The respiratory droplets travel about three feet before they tend to settle out of the air, ” says infectious disease expert Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Federal guidelines suggest six feet of separation, so keep your distance.

10. Emphasize Hand Hygiene.

  • Place clear posters around the workplace, showing demonstrative images of hand hygiene tips such as washing the hand with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water for no less than 20 seconds.
  • Provide access to soap and water in different locations in the workplace.

11. Give Employees Hand Sanitizer.

While washing your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds in the best way to stay in good health, ask your team to use hand sanitizer throughout the day as an added precaution. Given that most stores are out of stock, you can safely make hand sanitizer in bulk. It’s important to remember that according to the CDC hand sanitizer is only effective at killing viruses if it is at least 60% alcohol so the ratio of alcohol to other ingredients is critical. Purchase a 5 gallon bucket with spout. Combine the following in a 5 gallon bucket and pour into small 8oz spray bottles using a funnel. NIBLL is providing hand sanitizer at all our meal services for your employees use.

Recipe makes 20- 8oz spray bottles:

  •         1 gallon 70-90% Isopropyl Alcohol (avl smart and final, instacart)
  •         8 oz Aloe Vera gel (avl sprouts, instacart)
  •         2 oz vegetable glycerin  (avl sprouts, instacart)
  •         4 oz pure lavender oil (sprouts, instacart)
  •         4 oz pure tea tree oil  (sprouts, instacart)

12. Educate on Cough and Sneeze Etiquette.

  • These tips include covering one’s nose and mouth with a tissue (not the hand) or their clothed inner elbow when they cough or sneeze and washing one’s hands with soap and water immediately afterward.
  • Provide your workers with tissues and no-touch disposal trash receptacles to limit contact with infected material. 

13. Keep Common Surfaces Disinfected.

Have loads of disinfectant wipes available. Bleach based wipes are most effective. Wipe down or spray all door handles, light switches, desk tops, keyboards every 2 hours with no rinse disinfectant spray or wipe like Seventh Generation which kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.  

For more information on ways to keep your team healthy or to learn about services provided by NIBLL, please contact [email protected]