I enjoy meeting new people, but I don't necessarily want to exchange bodily fluids with them before we've been formally introduced! I was speaking at a conference recently and during the lunch break someone came over to chat. I had no sooner swallowed a mouthful when they sprayed spittle all over my lips. I managed to stifle the urge to squeal and discretely wiped it away with my napkin. They then promptly coughed over my plate. My grandmother would turn in her grave: "Coughs and sneezes spread diseases!" We were always taught to turn away and cover our mouths. A few minutes later they commented that I hadn't eaten my lunch. I did the polite thing and rather than tell them that I wasn't eating it because the dirty swine had just coughed all over it, I simply told a white lie and said I was vegan. At that point the event organiser wandered over, to be met with indignance from my germ ridden luncheon partner. She berated her for not having provided me with the appropriate dietary requirements. I don't know who was more mortified, her for having made a dietary faux pas or me for my white lie coming home to roost. A plate of vegetables (all they could rustle up at short notice) appeared consisting of all the vegetables that set off irritable bowel syndrome, I couldn't bring myself to tell the poor conference manager and duly ate them. I was wracked with wind for the rest of the day, and all because some filthy executive doesn't know how to manage their own sputum! This person was trying to sell me their services but they can cough goodbye to ever getting my business. This could be happening to your business too, not only are you losing money from your staff being ill, you could be losing business from your staff sharing their viruses with potential clients.
I'm all for building up immunity, Norwegians don't bother with all the rigorous palaver the British do with our baby bottles and soothers, and their children are better rather than worse for it. But as adults we could really do without the inconvenience and stress of being ill. From the advent of home working, so long as you had the strength to hit the on button on your computer and connect to the internet, you were no longer will, you were 'working from home'. Human Resources absence policy is such that it makes 'corporate criminals' out of people who are ill too often and this puts an even greater strain on work life balance.
It's not just my ill mannered delegate who doesn't know coughing etiquette, just walk down any high street, or on a train. And you'll be exposed to people coughing in your face with impunity.
We could cut the spread of illness, stay healthier, achieve a better work life balance and save the economy millions by adopting five simple tips for coughing etiquette and illness hygiene.
1. In Japan, if you have a cough you're supposed to wear a mask when travelling on public transport to cut exposure to your cold for your fellow passengers.
2. In China, you are taught to cough into the crook of your elbow, as it's considered the only area big enough to catch the spray of the germs travelling at such high speed.
3. There was some medical advice released in the UK before Christmas that said that a virus can live in a tissue for up to 30 minutes, therefore once you've blown your nose, you should dispose of your tissue in a covered bin or down the toilet and wash your hands afterwards. My partner and my daughter both had stinking colds over Christmas, we adopted this approach, but I fully expected my son and I to catch it. However, we spent two weeks together without my son and I getting so much as a snivel. So maybe there is some mileage in it!
4. If you're one of those people that carry a cloth hanky in your pocket, then burn it. They're a filthy habit, strike disgust into the hearts of most women that see them, and paper hankies were invented years ago to supersede them. Who wants to shake the hand of someone who has just put some filthy snot rag into their pocket? How I feel for the poor unsuspecting cashiers who have to take the cash, not to mention the germs, of cloth hanky carriers.
5. You can also cut the spread of coughs and colds by washing your hands; before you eat, when you've been on public transport, or after handling money. If you can't get to soap and water, carry one of those little disinfectant gels in your bag/pocket.
If only parents, schools and employers could follow these simple tips and we could all look forward to less illness, saving millions on absence and better work life balance. Spread the word, not germs!