Autumn is here, which means so is flu season. According to the CDC Foundation, between five and 20 percent of the United States population gets sick with the flu every year, and 60 percent of adults who are hospitalized for the flu are between the working ages of 18 and 64. Each year, the flu costs the United States $16.3 billion in lost earnings, and the total economic burden is estimated at $87 billion. Protect your workers and your business by implementing a workplace flu prevention strategy.
Encourage flu vaccines.
The CDC recommends that everyone who is at least six months old get a flu shot every year. This is by far the most effective way of preventing the flu. Remind your employees to get their annual flu shots by putting up signs, sending out emails and talking about it during meetings.
To help you spread the word (and not the flu) the CDC has free resources designed for businesses. These resources include flyers that you can print and post around the office, online tools and information for managers.
Another great way to get everyone vaccinated is to hold a vaccination clinic at the office. This way, everyone gets vaccinated at once. This is very convenient for employees, many of whom might put off getting their flu shot otherwise. If you can’t hold a vaccination clinic at the office, make sure employees know where they can get a vaccine that’s covered by their insurance.
Although some businesses, especially in the health care industry, have made vaccines mandatory, this practice has led to legal disputes.
Keep the office clean.
Have facial tissues and hand sanitizer in several convenient places around the office. Make sure the office is cleaned regularly, paying attention to problem areas where germs are known to spread, like restrooms, doorknobs and shared phones. Don’t let the restrooms run out of hand soap.
Encourage people who are sick to stay home.
When people come to work with the flu, they’re not very productive. They can also make themselves worse, increasing the amount of time they’ll need to recover and risking serious complication. On top of that, they can spread the flu around the office. Encourage people to stay home when they are sick. This means making them feel comfortable about taking time off. If they are given a hard time about staying home when they are ill, they may feel pressure to show up – to the detriment of everyone. Offering paid sick days or telecommuting options also helps team members make the right decision.