Flu season, which begins in the fall and peaks in the winter, can be highly problematic for many companies. If an influenza outbreak hits your business, employee absenteeism rates will likely rise, which could interrupt workflow and hamper office productivity. Although medical experts attempt to gauge the severity of flu season every year, it can still be unpredictable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s flu season was more severe than predicted, with an estimated 37.4 – 42.9 million reported illnesses between October 2018 and May 2019.
With effective planning, preparation, and educating employees on prevention tactics, you can minimize the impact that the flu will have on your business. Here are some office wellness tips for getting through flu season.
Tips for flu prevention:
Encourage healthy habits at work. Remind employees to wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water; advise them to avoid touching their eyes, noses, and mouths; and put out boxes of tissues and hand sanitizer around the office. People should especially wash their hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, or blowing their noses. Tell employees not to use their co-workers’ desk supplies or tools to minimize the spreading of germs. You may even consider providing items such as healthy snacks, water bottles, and fitness incentives to promote a more holistically health-conscious working environment.
Facilitate flu shots for employees. The CDC claims that getting vaccinated is one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu: it typically reduces the risk of contracting the flu by between 40% and 60%. Consider offering seasonal flu shots in your workplace, or encourage employees to get themselves vaccinated, even if they must do it during the workday. If you’re unable to offer shots in the workplace, provide a list of nearby clinics and pharmacies they can visit, many of which provide flu shots for free.
Schedule regular office cleanings. During flu season, you may want to have your office cleaned more often. Advise your cleaning staff to pay special attention to frequently touched objects and surfaces like elevator buttons, phones, door knobs, keyboards, and computer mouses. You can also place antibacterial wipes around the office so employees can routinely wipe down their desks themselves. Install hands-free appliances like automatic soap and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms.
Tips for dealing with a flu outbreak:
Avoid close contact with co-workers and others who appear ill. If someone starts sneezing or coughing, steer clear — or try to keep a distance of at least six feet. Crowded and high-traffic areas can be a hotbed for germs, so minimize group meetings in close quarters, and limit unnecessary visitors to the office whenever possible. Avoid shaking hands, and wash your hands after physical contact. When a group meeting is absolutely necessary, make sure the meeting rooms are well-ventilated.
Tell your employees to stay home when they’re sick. Encouraging people to keep working when they don’t feel well can backfire. Aside from hampering an employee’s ability to perform effective work, the flu is highly contagious; it only takes one sick person to come into the office to infect the entire team if exposed. Additionally, a person who tries to work through an illness may even be prolonging their symptoms. Make sure your sick leave policies are non-punitive and transparent, so employees know what to expect if and when the flu hits.
Allow for telecommuting or working from home. Perhaps a sick employee needs extra time to recover from the flu; they might be feeling better but may still be contagious, or perhaps they need to be at home to care for a sick family member. In these situations, give them the option to work remotely. If there is a vital meeting an employee simply can’t miss, make it a conference call, and use email, phone calls, or group chat platforms instead of face-to-face communication. Finally, create contingency plans for essential job tasks so that workflow interruption is at a minimum during employee absenteeism and business keeps running smoothly.
To learn more about how to protect your employees and your business during a flu outbreak, contact a trusted member of our Commercial Lines team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 333-7234. We also invite you to learn more about what services we provide at www.easterninsurance.com.