Flu Season Is Fast Approaching—Are YOU Prepared?
Ah—the dreaded period from the end of fall through the winter—flu season is once again upon us. There is only so much that hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and staying far, far away from anyone who sneezes can do. So what can employers do to reduce workers' exposure to the seasonal flu virus?
First, it's important to promote vaccination among your employees. If you have a company blog, newsletter, e-letter, or old-fashioned paper signs, post about the importance of getting vaccinated before flu season is in full swing. Encourage them, and remind them several times throughout the season.
Second, promote hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Provide employees with disinfectants and disposable towels to keep work areas clean and remind them to wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, and to wipe down work stations with disinfectant regularly. Remind them to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their sleeve, not their hand.
While most everyone is aware of the symptoms of the flu, if a worker complains of a combination of fever, body aches, tiredness, vomiting, runny nose and/or headache, it's a safe bet to ask them to stay home. The HHS/CDC recommends that workers stay home if they have a fever/respiratory symptoms until 24 hours after the fever ends.
As a wise person in my office once said, "Sick is sick." If an employee is ill and poses a risk to others within the workspace, encourage them to stay home.
Consider conducting a flu vaccination clinic at your workplace. Studies show that employee vaccination programs can reduce absenteeism by 36% and also provide cost savings when it comes to medical care and sick leave. Worksite health initiatives are important for cultivating a healthy work environment and increasing employee productivity.
Designate an employee to coordinate the worksite flu clinic to promote and encourage all employees to attend the clinic and receive vaccinations. Host the clinic during flexible hours and for a significant block of time to ensure all who want to are able to make it. Whichever form of communication you choose to get the word out, it's important to send out reminders as the date approaches.
Here at HRi, we host an annual flu clinic in October. Our shots are administered by a local pharmacy, and we offer refreshments and goody bags (an incentive, if you will). We send out an initial email and two reminders to both our employees and our clients. RSVP's are encouraged, but we also accept walk-ins for those who may have forgotten until the last minute.
If some employees cannot make it on the designated day, promote getting the flu vaccination elsewhere. If employees have health insurance that covers vaccination, simply encourage them to go to their local pharmacy or physician to be vaccinated. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, preventive care, which includes immunizations, must be covered fully with no copays or cost-sharing.
Why risk getting the flu this season? If you are able to, host a clinic for your employees. And if not, remind them of the ways in which they can receive the vaccination this season.
For more information regarding hosting a flu clinic, please do not hesitate to call us at 410.451.4202.