We are coming up on the most wonderful time of the year — for CVS, Kleenex and doctor's offices. According to the CDC, cold and flu season costs businesses billions of dollars and employees millions of sick days every year.

Here are three steps leaders can take to inspire healthy habits on their teams.

1. Lead by example

We know being a good worker is not synonymous with showing up at the office sick and ready to power through. When we work while sick, we are less productive, and we can slow down others as we distract with our coughs and infect with our presence. Plus, as noted here previously, when leaders show up sick it sets a poor example.

Instead, if we are open with our teams and take time off when we are sick or better, before we become sick to practice solid self-care, our team will feel empowered to do so as well. By following a prevention model, we can reduce the overall sick days we take as well as decrease the risk of getting others sick.

And for those of us who are so healthy that we rarely take sick days? Celebrate it! Share the secrets of staying healthy, and if we are ever out to take care of others, share it as well. Create an atmosphere that supports healthy, proactive measures when it comes to illness.

2. Something simple

Take a cue from trends in nutrition and make a simple switch. Instead adopting a new diet, more nutrition gurus are advising upgrades like substituting kale for lettuce. Similarly, instead of trying to get everyone in the office to adopt super healthy habits overnight, try a simple switch instead.

For example, instead of filling the candy bowl with chocolate, put in some vitamin C drops. Add some honey and herbal tea selections to the break room. Or try ordering more pleasant soap for the bathrooms or the good tissue instead of the scratchy sandpaper normally stocked in the supply room.

Just providing the options to encourage regular handwashing, good hydration and healthy alternatives can go along way in creating a less sick office.

3. A radical act

Ready to take it to the next level? Ask team members what they need to maintain good health during the winter months. Is it a little extra time at the gym for a steam? Catching a few more zzzs and coming in late?

Get the lists, figure out what is feasible and offer it. By using the power and resources we already have as leaders, we can set the stage for a healthier environment.

The bottom line is just taking a few, simple, proactive and low/no-cost steps can go far in maintaining productivity and creating a healthier office this cold and flu season.