10/27/2014 12:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Ways Your Coworkers Are Getting You Sick, And How To Stop It

George R.R. Martin’s favorite threat, “Winter is coming,” doesn’t hold a candle (or tissue box) to the harsher, scarier reality: Cold and flu season is coming.

Surveys reveal that 90 percent of office workers showed up to work sick in 2013, meaning the office is an ideal place for bacteria sharing — and spreading.

To stop sickness from (literally) going viral in your office, we’ve partnered with Mucinex® to look at eight cold and cough crimes that your deskmates are committing. Let’s put an end to them, once and for all.

They Skip Flu Shots
According to the CDC, only 34 percent of healthy 18- to 64-year-olds got their flu shot in 2013. And since droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking can spread as far as six feet, this alarming statistic might just explain why there was a larger proportion of flu cases last year. Do your part to prevent OOO (out of the office) requests from skyrocketing by scheduling your annual flu shot this year — and encouraging your coworkers to do the same!

They Don’t Wash Their Hands
Normally, this is just a common courtesy. But during cough and cold season, this is a matter of life or death (or at the very least, staying healthy and getting sick). A coworker’s handshake could transmit everything from the common cold to MSRA if they fail to do their due diligence. Perhaps it’s time you reinstitute the fist bump which spreads fewer germs!

They Show Up To Work When They’re Ill
Your coworkers may think they’re doing your boss and fellow employees a service by battling sickness to show face at the office. Newsflash: They’re not! By continuing to come into the office despite feeling lousy, work ethic is compromised. Findings show that a sick person’s productivity levels plummet, costing employers more than it would if they just took a sick day. So tell your coworkers to take one for the team and take their germs home with them.

They Use the Office Gym
The fact that your deskmate probably isn’t even healthy enough to exercise isn’t the point. The point is that germs thrive at the gym. By handling equipment used by many people in quick sequences — like dumbbells, treadmill dashboards and bike seats — your coworkers could be compromising the health of dozens (or more!) in your office building. Stay off the treadmill after anyone who erupts in a coughing fit steps off...and wash your hands after, like, a lot.

They Construct Desk Tissue Pyramids
Sure, seeing your coworker get up every 5 minutes to discard a used tissue is annoying, not to mention disruptive. But letting tissue mountains pile up on their desks will only contribute to spreading more germs in the long run. Ask them to keep their germs to themselves by discarding tissues immediately after use, and stay at least 6 feet away from the contaminated area — er, desk surface.

They Borrow Your Keyboards, Phones, Pens Or Other Equipment
During cold season, don’t let anyone borrow your office equipment or use your desk while you’re out. A virus in snot can live up for 24 hours. So if they sneeze, then touch something that’s yours, they could inadvertently send you straight over the 98.6-degree mark.

They Drink From the Water Fountain When They’re Sick
If your officemates have even a mild case of the sniffles, it’s best they completely avoid the office drinking fountain. Studies have found 62,000 colony-forming units (CFUs) of bacteria per square inch on cafeteria water-fountain spigots, meaning they’re a hotspot for spreading germs … and that you should bring your own bottled beverages to work in the case that your sniffly friends ‘forget.’

They Cough in the Kitchen
Kitchen sinks are dirtier than most bathrooms, with more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch (and that’s just in the drain). Just as dirty are refrigerator and microwave handles, touched by office workers on a daily basis. If your sick coworker feels the need to inflict their germs near where food lives, don’t follow their lead...unless your mission is to wipe down everything they touch with an antibacterial solution.