How to prevent the spread of germs in the workplace

Almost 40% of South Africa’s workforce might report off sick due to colds and flu this winter. This is according to a study commissioned by Pharma Dynamics. Tania Goncalves, brand manager of Dettol ASL and Hand Hygiene, shares five tips on how to prevent the spread of germs at the workplace, so you don’t get sick.

The reality is that cold weather is not the cause of colds and flu, germs are, which is why by preventing the spread of germs in the workplace can be the best way for a consumer to save on their medical savings.

Here are five ways to prevent the spread of germs in the workplace:

  • Wash your hands: If you have come in contact with someone who is contagious, getting rid of the germs with a sanitising hand wash can stop a cold in its track. Use sanitising hand wipes or a hand sanitiser.
  • Keep some of the ‘germiest’ hotspots clean. These are your stationery, kitchen, bathrooms, office furniture, printer, telephone. Use hygiene soap, hand sanitiser, hand wipes, antiseptic liquid.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially door handles, handrails and taps.
  • Get enough sleep: A tired body is less able to fight a virus.
  • Light exercise: Research presented to the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that you are 50% less likely to get a cold if you are feeling fit and active.

It is believed that the average adult may get a cold and/or flu between two and five[1] times a year, these tips will help you and your colleagues share more healthy moments this winter.



MEET OUR EXPERT - Tania Goncalves

prevent spread germs workplace
Tania Goncalves is the brand manager of Dettol ASL and hand hygiene.

Lunch options at the workplace

Lunch is the second most important meal of the day. However, this is the meal that is often neglected because of poor planning, poor shopping practices, work constrains and most often lack of allocating some time to sit down and enjoy the meal. Ria Catsicas offers lunch options at the workplace to avoid skipping this meal.

Lunch should be planned to take all lifestyle practices, environment as well as practical facilities available to you in consideration. Lunch ideally should be consumed no later than 15h00 in the afternoon.

Work cafeteria or make use of the kitchen at the workplace

The best lunch meal to consume in summer is a salad bowl. The challenge is to keep it interesting and varied.

A nutritionally balanced salad bowl should consist of a healthy source of protein, carbohydrate, vegetables and fat. This balanced combination will provide you with the sustained energy required to perform throughout the afternoon. By combining the following menu items shown below, you can achieve this objective:

One portion of lean protein: boiled egg or chicken (use leftovers from supper) or canned fish (tuna chunks, mackerel, salmon, tomato pilchards, sardines (oil/water drained)) or low-fat cheese (ricotta/cottage) or sliced lean cold meats (ham/pastrami). (Ideal for their low saturated fat content and the fish for their high omega-3 fatty acid content).


One portion of starch: corn kernels (canned/frozen), brown/wild rice (leftovers) or chickpeas or lentils or all types of beans (canned). (Ideal for their high fibre content, low-glycaemic index).


A variety of vegetables: beetroot, tomatoes, broccoli florets, green beans, gherkins, cabbage, carrots, mange tout, variety of lettuce, cucumber, leftover vegetables e.g. peas, roasted butternut etc. (Ideal for their content of fibre, vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals).


One portion of fat: “Lite” mayonnaise or avocado pear, olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar or commercial low oil vinaigrette dressing. (Ideal for their high content of mono unsaturated fats). 

In winter, the salad bowl can be swapped for a bowl of chunky vegetable soup. Once again keep it interesting and varied by creating different combos, combining a variety of lean proteins (cut up chicken breast or canned lentils or beans or lean beef and marrow bones) and whole grains (canned corn wild brown rice or barley).

For those of us who love cooking, there is nothing better than cooking a delicious beef barley vegetable soup on the weekend, ready to bring to work during the week. Alternatively, buying a pre -prepared vegetable soup and creating combos at work, easy to mix and to warm in the microwave oven is recommended. Examples are a Lentil corn vegetable soup or Bean brown rice vegetable soup.

Lunch on the road or no kitchen available at the workplace

The lunch box menu shown below will provide you with the necessary carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals your body requires. Eating a well-balanced lunch box daily will ensure that you achieve optimal blood glucose control throughout the afternoon. In addition, packing your own lunch box is more economical.

A balanced lunch box consists of the following: starch, protein, fruit and a portion of vegetables.

FRUIT Strawberries


Sliced pear Fruit kebabs Sliced pawpaw Orange
STARCH Health bread filled with Wholegrain crackers spread with peanut butter Whole wheat pita bread filled with Pasta tuna salad Durum wheat pasta (penne) mix with Carrot and bran muffin served with
PROTEIN Egg, boiled and sliced 1 x 175ml low-fat fruit/plain yoghurt Chicken breast-sliced and mixed with Canned tuna chunks (oil drained) Low-fat grated cheese
VEGETABLE Sugar-snap peas, baby corn, baby carrots Cucumber sticks, baby tomatoes chopped tomato and lettuce Mix with a variety of vegetables Baby carrots and gherkins
FAT Lite mayonnaise Peanut butter Lite mayo Low-oil honey-mustard dressing Lite margarine
TREATS (optional) Handful cranberries 6 Dry apricots 1 handful of biltong (fat removed) Dry fruit bar 1 handful of nuts

Emergency ‘back-up’ lunch

It is recommended to always keep a few items in the cupboard at work as a back-up in case you don’t have time to pack your lunch box. Easy nutritious foods are canned fish, or John West tuna packs, chunky flavoured low-fat cottage cheese or lean cold meats (pastrami or turkey) served on whole grain low-fat crackers, such as Provita or Ryvita. Enjoy the fish/cheese and crackers with a mug of vegetable soup (canned) in winter. In summer, the soup can be replaced with one portion of fresh fruit.

Healthy fast foods

If you are spending your lunch time on the road and you forgot your lunch box at home, you should choose a healthy fast food meal. The following fast food choices are lower in fat and have lower glycaemic load than the unhealthy options:

Something Fishy, Fishaways – order a portion of grilled fish, ½ portion of rice and a double portion of coleslaw.                                                        

Nandos: order a small portion ¼ chicken (remove skin) combined with spicy rice, Portuguese salad, vegetables and coleslaw or the Vitality meal that consists of ¼ chicken portion, corn on the cob and a green salad.                                                                                    

Sushi bars: limit the rice portion of sushi by ordering Miso soup or edamame beans combined with sashimi and sushi pieces (limit sushi portions to 3 to 4 per meal).                                  

Chinese: order healthy choices such as beef or chicken chow main. Ask for ½ portion steamed rice and double portion vegetables.

Indian: order a bean or chicken curry as well as a vegetable curry with a ¼ portion rice (avoid the Naan bread and Roti).    

Note: larger portion of starch can be enjoyed if you are doing carb-counting and adjust your insulin accordingly.

Unhealthy fast foods include burgers and chips, pizzas, wraps, shawarmas, vetkoek, boerewors rolls, pap and meat, Bunny chows, fish and chips, Russian and chips and Prego rolls.

MEET OUR EXPERT - Ria Catsicas

Ria Catsicas
Ria Catsicas is a dietitian in private practice and completed a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a special interest in the nutritional management of chronic diseases of lifestyle and authored a book The Nutritional Solution to Diabetes.

Workplace wellness – making the workplace a healthy, happy space

Corporate Wellness Week is observed in the first week of July (1-7). With this in mind, Paula Pienaar explains why workplace wellness is of vital importance.

What is corporate wellness?

Corporate, employee or workplace wellness refers to the physical and mental well-being and health of employees, their work environment and workplace culture. Understanding the significance of this concept begins by addressing the health needs of our working population.

State of the nation’s health

Recent data from Statistics SA show that 56% of all deaths annually are attributed to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. In fact, Type 2 diabetes mellitus is now the second most common cause of death in South Africa (5,4%), after tuberculosis (7,2%)1. The prevention and management of such chronic diseases can be largely accomplished by managing associated health risk factors which include hypertension, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, excess body weight and lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor dietary habits and poor sleep health. One estimate is that eliminating these health risk behaviours would make it possible to prevent 80% of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes mellitus, and even 40% of cancers2.

Using the workplace to improve the nation’s health

Recent economic statistics show that 44% of South Africans are employed3 and on average, South Africans who work full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days a week, at their workplace. It is therefore not surprising that the workplace provides an opportune setting through which a large part of the population can be helped through workplace wellness programmes. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe, hazard-free workplace for their employees and also the opportunity to foster a happy, productive working environment by promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Workplace Wellness programmes (WWPs)

Healthy employees are more productive and have the lowest cost to organisations. WWPs therefore aim to prevent the development of chronic diseases and support employees with existing chronic medical conditions. Another way in which employees can be supported is by creating a work environment that encourages healthy lifestyle behaviours, such as having quality short breaks away from the desk, physical activity, good nutrition and no smoking. Successful, effective WWPs therefore have significant benefits to the organisation and to employees.

Workplace wellness is beneficial to:

The Organisation

The Employee

Reduces productivity loss. Reduces risk for premature death.
Reduces risk for short-term disability. Reduces risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, back pain, and high cholesterol.
Enhances mood and job satisfaction. Results in greater job satisfaction.
Enhances work performance. May increase annual income.
Reduces healthcare spending. Lowers debt.
Lowers employee turnover rates. Lowers long-term unemployment.

Workplace wellness – the key to a healthy, happy and productive workforce

Workplace wellness is among the most vital investments that a company can make. Businesses that start WWPs aren’t only investing in the physical wellness, safety, and mental health of their employees, but are also taking preventive measures by creating a healthier environment. A recent scientific review concluded that well-designed, comprehensive WWPs have the potential to improve heart health and to reduce mortality and disability resulting from cardiovascular disease and stroke4.

5 evidence-based strategies that have shown to work in successful WWPs:

  1. Wellness screening days (height, weight, waist circumference and finger prick blood tests).
  2. Healthy lifestyle programmes (e.g. smoking cessation, weight loss, fatigue management, and diabetes programmes).
  3. Covering or minimising co-payment of lifestyle-related health programmes.
  4. Onsite exercise facilities and informative health talks.
  5. Fully covered flu vaccinations.

Making workplace wellness enjoyable

Participation in workplace wellness initiatives may often be poor. However, research has shown that by involving employees in the roll-out of such programmes through interest-based surveys and good communication strategies, companies can play a significant role in changing employees’ attitudes to work from a dreary obligation to an exciting health-enhancing part of their day.

Strategies that organisations can take to improve 3 pillars of performance – nutrition, physical activity and adequate rest:

  1. Nutrition
    1. Review the catering menu and vending machines to gently introduce healthier options.
    2. Coordinate a ‘healthy snack of the month’ club.
  2. Physical activity
    1. Arrange for bicycle racks and provide ‘bike to work’ promotional materials.
    2. Make the area around the office building conducive to walks and try to move your meetings from the boardroom to walking paths (walking meetings).
  3. Sleep and fatigue
    1. Invite a sleep health professional to a ‘lunch and learn’ session.
    2. Create a workplace with adequate natural lighting and low noise levels.

For more information, please visit

MEET OUR EXPERT - Paula R. Pienaar

Paula R. Pienaar
Paula R. Pienaar (BSc (Med)(Hons) Exercise Science (Biokinetics)), MSc (Med) Exercise Science) is the scientific advisor to EOH Workplace Health and Wellness, and a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town. Her scientific research relates to sleep health and managing daytime fatigue to improve workplace productivity and lower the risk of chronic disease. Her thesis will identify the link between sleep and cardiometabolic diseases (Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease) in South African employees. She aims to design a tailored sleep and fatigue management workplace health intervention to improve employee health risk profiles and enhance work productivity. Contact her at [email protected]


  1. Statistics South Africa, Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2015: Findings from death notification. 2017: Pretoria:SSA.
  2. Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, et al. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction: the American Heart Association’s strategic Impact Goal through 2020 and beyond. Circulation. 2010;121(4): 586-613
  4. Fonarow GC, Calitz C, Arena R, et al. Workplace wellness recognition for optimizing workplace health: a presidential advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131(20): e480-e497.