Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 19;   May 10, 2006: Social Distancing for Pandemic Flu

Social Distancing for Pandemic Flu

by

It's time we all began to take seriously the warning about a possible influenza pandemic. Whether or not your organization has a plan, you can do much to reduce your own chances of infection, and the chances of mass infection, by adopting a set of practices known as social distancing.

When or if pandemic influenza develops, it will happen because some of the viruses that hopped from bird to human will have evolved to be efficient at hopping from human to human. In a pandemic, most people who are infected will be carrying virus they acquired not from birds, but from other people.

A broadcast-only sporting event during a pandemic

During a pandemic, as part of social distancing, sporting events might be for broadcast only. In-person attendance will be suspended.

And when pandemic influenza passes, it will pass because that virus can no longer find new people to infect. Either we'll have a vaccine, or people will have developed a post-exposure immunity, or we'll have ways of avoiding exposure.

As of this writing, the prospects for a vaccine in quantity and in time to address the threat do appear to be dim. And because the survival rate among those already exposed is so low, it appears that the human immune system is no match for this virus.

Thus, our first two options aren't much to rely on. We have to think about that third option — avoiding exposure. Social distancing is part of that approach.

Social distancing minimizes
the kind of contact that
enables flu virus transmission
Social distancing minimizes the kind of social contact that enables virus transmission. One example of a social distancing practice is limiting functions that require assembling many people into a single indoor space, such as all hands meetings and benefits fairs. Here are some examples of social distancing practices that you can adopt at work as an individual.

Avoid handshakes
Handshaking as a customary greeting enables virus transmission through skin-to-skin contact. Substitute something else — smile, wave, or bump elbows.
Avoid the lunchroom rush
Whether you eat lunch in the employee dining room or at a restaurant, avoid the rush, and the hour immediately following. Eat earlier or later, or eat with just a few people in a conference room or large office.
Substitute telemeetings for face-to-face meetings
Reducing the number or duration of face-to-face meetings reduces the opportunity for virus transmission. Shift as much of the agenda as possible to email or teleconference.
Use larger conference rooms
If you must meet face-to-face, use the largest available conference room. Larger rooms have better ventilation, and there's more room to spread out.
Avoid using public pens
Public pens are found at the retail counter, at the building or hotel guest registration, at the bank, in the benefits office, and many other places. Use your own pen. In conference rooms, don't use the public whiteboard markers. Carry your own.
Avoid the commuter rush periods
If you commute via public transportation, take advantage of your employer's flex time policy to shift your working hours. Avoid times when you'll be exposed to crowds.

Over the next months, you'll pick up lots more tips for social distancing. Send them to me and I'll spread them around. Go to top Top  Next issue: My Right Foot  Next Issue

101 Tips for Preparing for Pandemic FluIs your organization fully prepared for pandemic flu? Do you have new products scheduled for release in the next eighteen months? Have you considered what a pandemic event might do to your plans? For some novel ideas for making your organization pandemic-resistant, check out my tips book 101 Tips for Preparing for Pandemic Flu.

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrennVXnsZvibxAfQwJmner@ChacQyVktBUSMnqsqIUioCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Uphill skierSelling Uphill: Before and After
Whether you're a CEO appealing to your Board of Directors, your stockholders or regulators, or a project champion appealing to a senior manager, you have to "sell uphill" from time to time. Persuading decision-makers who have some kind of power over us is a challenging task. How can we prepare the way for success now and in the future?
The Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal, showing their guide wallsIn the Groove
Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?" Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.
Computer monitors being recycled by the Nevada Division of Environmental ProtectionHow Not to Accumulate Junk
Look around your office. Look around your home. Very likely, some of your belongings are useless and provide neither enjoyment nor cause for contemplation. Where does this stuff come from? Why can't we get rid of it?
The damaged Apollo 13 Service Module, as seen from the command moduleHealthy Practices
Some organizational cultures are healthy; some aren't. How can you tell whether your organizational culture is healthy? Here are some indicators.
Vortex cores about an F18 fighter jetGuidelines for Sharing "Resources"
Often, team members belong to several different teams. The leaders of teams whose members have divided responsibilities must sometimes contend with each other for the efforts and energies of the people they share. Here are some suggestions for sharing people effectively.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Two varieties of "Stupid" buttonsComing April 27: Pushing the "Stupid" Button
Some people know exactly how to lead others to feel ignorant or unintelligent. Here's a little catalog of tactics to watch for. Available here and by RSS on April 27.
Magic Lantern Slide of a dog jumping through a hoopAnd on May 4: Just-In-Time Hoop-Jumping
Securing approvals for projects, proposals, or other efforts is often called "jumping through hoops." Hoop-jumping can be time-consuming and frustrating. Here are some suggestions for jumping through hoops efficiently. Available here and by RSS on May 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenThnfRWtSUbDSevQaner@ChaccAaYcjYLyVgIYFWyoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Managing in Fluid Environments
Most Managing in Fluid Environmentspeople now work in environments that can best be characterized as fluid, because they're subject to continual change. We never know whats coming next. In such environments, managing — teams, projects, groups, departments, or the enterprise — often entails moving from surprise to surprise while somehow staying almost on track. It's a nerve-wracking existence. This program provides numerous tools that help managers who work in fluid environments. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
How to Spot a Troubled Project Before the Trouble StartsLearn how to spot troubled projects before they get out of control.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.