Are You Ready? For Flu Season That Is
The flu season is quickly approaching. On average, 5-20% of the US population will get the flu each year. Whoa! As an employer, it's important to help prepare your employees for the influenza, and that means encouraging flu shots, examining sick leave policies, initiating and communicating basic flu prevention strategies and ensuring cleanliness in the workplace.
THE Flu Shot
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to avoid coming down with the flu is to get vaccinated. I'm not suggesting that you require your employees get the flu shot – that opens up a whole 'nother Pandora's Box. And you don't want to go there. What you can do is encourage your employees to get the flu shot in order to maintain productivity and attendance in the workplace; make it fun! Here are a few ways to incentivize your workforce:
- Host on-site flu clinics (read: no whining about time or money)
- An afternoon or morning off
- Casual Dress Day
- Gift Card
- Free Lunch
- Points toward a raffle or prize
Note: under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), preventive services, including flu shots, are covered at no cost (by in-network providers) to workers enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans.
Sick? Stay at Home!
Now is the time to review your sick leave policy – or implement one if you don't already have one. To help keep the flu away from the workplace, your leave policy should ensure that people can take off when they are sick. Who wants an office full of medicine-head zombies? Encourage your employees to stay home without penalty if they are sick. Also communicate other related polices to your workforce, including administrative leave transfer between employees, pay policy for sick leave, childcare options and what to do when ill during travel.
How long should you expect someone to be out of the office? Probably 2-3 days. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends without the use of medication. And even though you might miss your employee, he will be much more thankful and productive (and not as intimidated by the number of emails in his inbox) if he can take the time to fully recover.
Cover Your Cough and Keep the Workplace Clean
80% of flu cases are spread by touching contaminated surfaces and by direct human contact (CDC). Make sure you have the following items available and that your staff knows where they can find them:
- No-touch wastebaskets for used tissues
- Soap and water
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell
- Disposable towels
- Cleaning and sanitation materials
What do telephones, elevator buttons, water fountains, computer keyboards, bathroom faucets and door handles have in common? They show how easy it is to come into contact with viruses that can cause the flu. Cleaning frequently touched surfaces is one way to cut down on the number of cold and flu germs that are passed from one co-worker to another. Those disinfectants and disposable towels I mentioned earlier? Provide them for workers to use to clean their work spaces and surfaces and to keep work areas clean.
Flu season starts in October and runs until March, but it can continue into spring. Keep your workforce healthy, happy, and productive this year by encouraging flu shots (Yay! This is fun!) and communicating to your employees that it's ok to take a sick day or two or three. You'd rather not have them coughing up a lung in the office anyway.