Many of us have heard on the news that we are facing a serious flu season this year. It is scary to think about you or a loved one becoming very sick. If you own a business, it's also critical to think about how you can protect your clients and staff from contracting and spreading the flu.

Whether you work in a restaurant, medical office, salon or spa, follow my expert advice on minimizing the threat of the flu in your workplace.

Keep your hands clean. The flu virus, according to the National Health Service of the U.K., can live on our hands for almost 5 full minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but you'd be surprised about how many things you can touch in 5 minutes.

Our hands touch just about everything: our work surfaces, door knobs, food, pens, computers, phones, our mouths and noses, chairs, keyboards, and endless other things. Therefore, it's critical that we wash our hands with soap and warm water frequently throughout the day, and before and after we eat, drink and use the restrooms.

Clean hands are imperative to protect yourself and your clients. Hand sanitizer is another great option if sinks are not close by — keep them in plain sight for all to use.

If you use latex or nitrile gloves during your work day, it is crucial that your hands are clean before you reach for a new pair of gloves so that you do not contaminate them.

Wearing gloves alone does not stop the spread of the flu. Have you ever seen a restaurant worker handle cash and your sandwich with the same pair of gloves? Have you ever seen a nurse, doctor or dental hygienist click the mouse of their keyboard or swipe their tablet with their gloves and then proceed with an exam?

Gloves must be changed often when they come in contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. The simple act of touching a knob to adjust the height on your stool or opening a cabinet to retrieve some supplies will containment a pair of gloves.

Gloves have no magical powers to disinfect themselves. Think of a pair of gloves just like you would your own bare hands and realize that it is important to pay attention to what you touch with them.

Keep hard surfaces clean. According to the CDC, the flu virus can stay active on most hard surfaces for about 24 hours.

Make sure that your clients see that hard surfaces like tables, desks, chairs, bathroom surfaces and sinks are being wiped with hospital strength disinfectant throughout the work day. If you are using non-disposable tools that touch the skin, puncture the skin, enter the mouth or touch the nose or eyes, they should be properly disinfected after every use.

It is advantageous for your clients to see sterilized tools coming out of sealed containers. Keep disinfected surfaces covered with plastic wrap or sheets, and use disposable paper covers whenever possible on tables and chairs.

If you or your staff are sick, do not come into work. The best way to prevent the spreading of the flu virus is to stay home, if you have symptoms. Honor call-outs from your staff and reschedule sick clients without delay. If you come in contact with someone who may have the flu, it's important to keep your distance, as much as possible.

Believe it or not, even being too close to someone when they speak could expose you to the flu virus if they are infected, according to the CDC. The flu virus can be spread by the droplets that are formed when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk.

When coughing or sneezing, the mouth and nose should be covered with a tissue. If tissues aren't available, you must cover your cough or sneeze with your inner elbow and not your hands. After coughing or sneezing, you have to wash your hands ASAP.

Hand washing, according to the CDC should take about fifteen seconds or more with warm, soapy water. Some businesses encourage their staff to wash their hands as soon as they arrive to work to keep communal germs from entering the workplace. When in doubt, wash up!

With these mindful practices, the flu can be prevented. It is our responsibility as business owners (especially in the restaurant, spa and service industries) to take care of ourselves and our clients.

Let's all be more aware of what we touch, how often we wash our hands, and always cover our coughs and sneezes. No one wants to get the flu or pass the flu to their friends or family. Follow these prevention procedures for a flu-minimizing season at your business.