To avoid office bug, keep a safe distanceDuring flu and...

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

January 29, 1993|By Kim Clark

To avoid office bug, keep a safe distance

During flu and cold season, maybe you should steer clear of those handshaking, back-slapping co-workers.

Dr. Diane Dwyer, chief epidemiologist for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says no one knows just what percentage of the cold and flu cases result from workplace contact.

But there is little doubt that diseases can sweep through offices.

For protection from the office flu, Dr. Dwyer recommends a flu vaccine. But, she warns, if you've already had contact with the germs, it may be too late for any vaccine's help.

The flu virus running around these days takes one to five days to gather enough strength to start giving its victims the aching muscles, headache and other initial symptoms, she said.

If you don't want to get a shot, Dr. Dwyer recommends simply not touching anyone who might be infected. Cold and other germs are transmitted by close contact.

Dr. Dwyer says the best way to isolate yourself from germs is to increase distances between yourself and the germ carriers. And that means: Don't kiss that sniffling boss.

Stay away from that sneezing colleague.

And, if you've been shaking hands or touching something that might be a receptacle for germs, wash your hands before changing your contact lenses, say, or otherwise touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

But, she says, people shouldn't take drastic action, such as staying home from work, just to avoid a cold.

"Colds circulate. . . . It is a part of life."

The Phillips restaurant operation at Harborplace has been named Employer of the Year by the Maryland Rehabilitation and Employment Association.

Phillips was nominated by Baltimore Area Retarded Citizens (BARC), which has placed dozens of mentally and physically disabled people in jobs at the restaurant.

BARC picks out likely candidates, then sends them, along with a "job coach" to Phillips, where they are further screened. When BARC clients are hired, the coaches work beside the new workers for a couple of weeks to make sure they know their jobs.

During the height of the busy summer season, as many as 25 BARC members work in the preparation room, says Wendy Clasing, personnel manager for the five-restaurant operation.

Ms. Clasing says she tries to make sure no more than one-fourth of a work shift is made up of disabled workers.

She pays everybody by the same scale -- starting new hires at $4.25 an hour -- but gives the disabled workers jobs with a lot of repetitive tasks, such as mixing coleslaw, so they can master them.

When it is time for a performance review, Ms. Clasing calls in the worker and coach to make sure everything is understood, she said.

That's not the only managerial adaptation. Ms. Clasing said kitchen managers have learned to talk more with the workers, and sometimes to repeat lessons or messages.

She said she doesn't believe the program has cost Phillips anything. In fact, she said, it has provided an extremely stable work force -- something that many restaurants lack.

She says the program helps everybody -- the restaurant and the workers -- as long as employers are realistic.

"You just can't expect more than the employee can physically give," she warns.

More coming to than leaving Baltimore

Times may be hard here, but they seem to be worse elsewhere.

More people are moving to Baltimore than out of it, says a survey by Ryder Inc.

According to moving truck rental patterns, New York is the departure point for most new immigrants to Baltimore.

Philadelphia and Washington are close runners-up.

Ironically, New York is also the most popular destination for people leaving Baltimore, with Washington ranking second.

But a significant number of Baltimoreans are quitting the city for the peace and quiet of the Eastern Shore. Salisbury is the third most popular destination for moving trucks from Baltimore, Ryder says.

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