When there are vitamin C packets scattered across your desk, you can’t remember the last time someone on your team wasn’t working from home, and you’ve already had to say “bless you” 15 times before 11 AM, it can only mean one thing—it’s flu season.
Working in an office filled with people makes it all too easy to get sick. And unless you plan to enclose yourself in a plastic bubble for the next few weeks, you won’t be able to avoid germs completely.
These 10 strategies will help you stay healthy for as long as possible, as well as help you handle work if you do get sick (because, it happens).
1. Practice Healthy Habits
The best-case flu season scenario is that you don’t get sick at all. Incorporating more healthy habits into your workday—like drinking plenty of water, taking breaks to exercise and stretch, and opting for vitamin-rich snacks—will keep your immune system strong and minimize your chances of getting ill.
2. Try a Little Retail Therapy
One benefit of flu season is that it at least gives you a valid excuse to online shop during work hours. Take some extra precautions by adorning your desk with some winter-time necessities like tissues and tea, and maybe even treating yourself to a USB humidifier or smartphone sanitizer.
3. Get Enough Sleep
An important part of staying healthy is getting enough sleep—enough said. If you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night, try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. It’ll completely change your routine and help you conk out no matter what hour you go to bed.
4. Take Note of Your Co-workers’ Health
If you notice your co-workers are starting to get sick, it’s time to enact some safeguards for the sake of your own health—like sanitizing your hands more often, encouraging sick co-workers to work from home, and getting the flu shot ASAP if you haven’t already.
5. Speak Up When You’re Not Feeling Well
Uh-oh. You woke up this morning feeling fine, but now you’re starting to feel achy and are afraid you might have caught whatever is going around the office. Even if you think your runny nose and coughing fits speak for themselves, it’s best to let your boss and team know you’re not feeling well right away—both so that you can test their reactions (and see if they’ll send you home) and so that taking a sick day (if need be) will come as less of a shock.
Read More: The Unspoken Rules of Calling in Sick
6. Know When It’s Time to Go Home
Most people have a tendency to push themselves to go to work at times when it’s not necessary. We think that our selflessness for coming all the way into the office when we’re under the weather will be recognized and applauded by our colleagues, but in reality, this pretty much never happens (and it only makes us sick longer). No matter how important your role is, trust that your team can cover for you—the company won’t fall apart if you’re not there for a day or two.
7. Ask for a Sick Day the Right Way
If you’ve gone ahead and made the decision that a sick day is necessary, use this helpful email template to let your manager know your plan for the day (without making them angry).
8. Cover Your Bases While You’re Out
If you’re out sick, make sure to take 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to contact your direct reports, reschedule meetings, and provide any urgent updates to your team. And while you may think oversharing will help you feel less guilty, be aware that it could backfire—going into detail about your ailments only grosses people out, and can make you look like you’re lying about your illness.
9. Be Productive at Home (But Not Too Productive)
These days, most of us can do all or part of our work remotely, which means that sick days aren’t all or nothing anymore. How you balance your day off is up to you—get some work done if you can, but also take time to relax and recover depending on how you feel. You won’t get better if you’re working just as hard as you normally would.
10. Be Prepared if You Have to Go In
Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t avoid having to go in to work even if you’re sick. If you have no other choice, do your best to avoid infecting your co-workers by working from a remote corner and keeping your workspace as sanitary as possible. And remember not to overwork yourself—only focus on what needs to be done and then head back home to rest.