6 Ways For Your Business To Beat The Flu
Flu season runs from October to May. While the news may be filled with Ebola stories, the reality of the situation is that seasonal flu is far more likely to disrupt your business. Per the www.Flu.gov website, “each flu season, nearly 11 million workdays are lost due to the flu. That equals approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity.” Unlike Ebola, there are preventive measures that you can take as a business owner to protect your employees, your company, and your community. Know that healthy workers keep your business productive, profitable, and can even offer a competitive advantage by avoiding downtime of your business operations.
1) Promote Flu Vaccines at Work
The single best method to protect against the flu is to create a pool of protection via vaccinated employees. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers numerous resources for businesses to motivate employees to be vaccinated. Two main strategies are suggested, either directly host flu vaccinations at your workplace, or share information about nearby clinics, pharmacies and other locations where the flu vaccine is being offered.
2) Increase Participation with Incentives
The CDC further suggests the use of incentives such as offering the flu vaccine at “no or low cost, providing refreshments at the clinic, or holding a contest for the department with the highest percentage of vaccinated employees.”
Global Resources, for example, has a nurse from a local hospital take over an empty training room to give free vaccinations, during work hours, to all interested employees.
3) Increase Participation with Education
Address common myths and fears about the flu vaccine. Publicize that a flu shot, for example, can not give anyone the flu, since the virus used to create this vaccine is inactive (killed). There is, however, a two week period for a vaccine to build up immunity. It is possible to catch the flu within this window as well as catch a different strain of the flu than the three or four strains targeted by a vaccine.
Employees should be knowledgeable about their vaccine options, such as flu shots, nasal sprays and special vaccines that are manufactured egg-free for people allergic to eggs. Risks of the vaccine should be addressed as well as the seriousness of the flu and flu complications—people can die from catching the flu. Certain people are at greater risk from the flu including young children, smokers, people battling cancer, kidney, or lung diseases, pregnant women, and anyone over the age of 65.
4) Publicize Flu Vaccinations
It starts with your management team knowing that flu vaccinations are a priority and conveying it to all supervisors. Managers/supervisors should set an example and be the first people vaccinated. Employees should be allowed to take time off from work to be vaccinated.
Use posters, flyers, email blasts, intranet, employee newsletters, meetings, and blogs/social media to communicate the benefits and availability of flu vaccines to your staff and their families. The CDC offers a selection of materials that can be downloaded and customized for this purpose.
5) Revisit Policies about Coming into Work When Sick
Make certain that your corporate policies support a healthy workplace. Encourage employees with flu symptoms to call in sick or to work from home. An article from USA Today shared how during the flu epidemic of 2009, when 26 million people were stricken with the flu, 8 million came into work and spread the disease to 7 million of their coworkers.
Paid sick days (a benefit that benefits employees and employers, alike, as the cost of paid sick days is outweighed by the productivity saved) can assist in preventing contagious employees from showing up to work, but offering ‘flu days, ’ i.e. sick days that are specifically meant for employees coming down with the flu, was even more effective. Per a recent study, “for a two-flu-day policy, the decreases in infection rates ranged from 38.38% to 40.77%.”
6) Encourage Clean Hands
The flu virus can linger on hard surfaces such as doorknobs, desks, phones, keyboards, etc., but the most effective method of stopping its transfer is the practice of regular hand washing. Any kind of soap with water will work, however, the length of time devoted to hand washing is important. A minimum of 30 seconds, or the time spent singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ twice, is needed. Faster, at a mere 10 seconds, would be using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The sanitizers, however, should be in addition to hand washing, not used in its place, states the latest research.
At Global Resources, we have a touch-free hand sanitizing dispenser located by our public washrooms for use by all employees. This is a minor investment, but another helpful tool in preventing the spread of the flu!