When it comes to flu season, both employees and employers are at risk. According to the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers with the flu each year. The loss of employee earnings is estimated at $16.3 billion annually and the overall economic burden is roughly $87 billion. Given that the flu can have severe health impacts for those affected, in addition to the heavy economic price, there are several ways companies can limit the consequences of the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receiving a flu shot every year is the best way to help employees steer clear of the dreaded virus. However, there are some strategies an organization can incorporate into its company culture that can help fight flu season. Below are some tips:
Education Is Key
Some employees may be unaware of how dangerous the flu can be or the steps they can take to help avoid becoming ill. Both the NFCDC and the CDC websites are updated frequently with useful and free information. Employee email blasts, pamphlets and posters are also a great way to spread the word. Lunch-and-learn seminars or Q&A sessions are other options.
Plan and Prepare for the Worst
Even in offices that are well prepared for flu season, infections can still cause problems. Some companies might decide to craft a flu plan and/or an emergency communications plan for the organization to prepare for widespread outbreaks.
Advocate for Employees to Use Sick Days when Needed
One strategy that will aid in preventing a major office flu disruption is to simply keep the disease out of the office. This means employees should be encouraged to stay home if they believe they have contracted the flu, or any other illness for that matter. For those who think they might be getting sick but have deadlines to meet, make telecommuting an option. But also encourage them to get some much-needed rest.
Provide Flu-Fighting Supplies
Make sure employees have full access to flu-fighting products. A healthy supply of hands-free soap dispensers, sanitizers, tissues and disinfectants will go a long way when fighting the spread of germs.
Encourage In-Office Vaccinations
While some workers may choose to avoid vaccination for health reasons or for personal reasons, many don’t get a flu shot because they simply don’t have the time. Collaborating with a local healthcare provider and making vaccinations available onsite can significantly decrease the chances of a devastating flu outbreak in the office.
Obviously, there are costs associated with promoting workplace wellness. However, these investments can be minimal when compared to the high price paid by employers and employees alike when their business operations are impacted by an illness such as the flu. A little prevention now can prevent serious consequences later.
Mike Baize is the manager of HR Services for Insperity, which, for more than 30 years, has been providing America’s best businesses an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance.