Flu season is unavoidable. Every year, a different strain can make its way into the population, causing thousands of people to become sick.
But employers can help reduce their employees’ risk, while reducing the organization’s risk as well. With proper planning, education and services such as the flu vaccine, an organization can minimize sick days, reduce health care costs, and maintain productivity and quality care.
Employees must be particularly cautious in the work environment, where they come into contact with other employees. People can easily pass viruses between them simply by distributing papers around a conference room table, shaking hands with a customer, sharing a phone or having a face-to-face conversation in front of the coffee machine.
People who have compromised immune systems or are susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia are also at a higher risk for contracting seasonal flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a regular flu season, about 90% of deaths related to flu occur in people 65 years and older.
To help protect your organization from the effects of the flu and other viruses, follow these simple steps:
1) Keep everyone informed. To gauge potential risk to your organization, you can start by educating yourself and better understanding the potential risks. The CDC maintains a Flu Tracker that updates weekly with the number of influenza cases reported by state. In calculating overall risk, it may be helpful to know how many of your employees have school-aged children or spouses who work in public facilities such as retail, hospitals or schools.
2) Encourage employees to get vaccinated. If possible, offer vaccines free of charge or for a nominal fee at your place of business. Also, publicize information about the availability of flu vaccines in your local communities, such as at doctors’ offices, hospitals and pharmacies.
3) Take preventative measures. Place dispensers of alcohol-based hand sanitizer or baskets of single-serve packets, in every bathroom and kitchen. Hang posters that encourage everyone to take maximum risk prevention, including covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, and washing their hands or using hand sanitizer before they leave the washroom or touch food. If they interact with the public, consider requiring them to wear rubber gloves.
4) Help protect traveling employees. Consider providing your road warriors with face masks, and making high-risk areas like West Africa off limits for in-person meetings.
5) Promote telecommuting. If possible, expand on your work-from-home policy to allow employees to work more days from home during the cold and flu season. This may require purchasing equipment that enables working in the cloud or through virtual technologies, such as video conferencing.
6) Encourage employees who don’t feel well to stay home. The CDC recommends that anyone with flu-like symptoms and a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher stay home for at least 24 hours or until the fever breaks.
7) Promote cleanliness. Routinely clean all common area surfaces, such as kitchen countertops, conference room tables and door handles, with a germ-killing solution.
For more detailed information and other simple steps to prepare, download Agility Recovery’s Seasonal Influenza Checklist.