The Flu and You: Keeping the Flu Out of Your Workplace
Flu season, which can extend until May, is no laughing matter; it’s not uncommon to lose several employees for a week or more at a time, and even one in-house instance of sickness can spell doom for the rest of the office. Fortunately, there are several measures that you can take to prevent the flu from entering your business to begin with.
Practice the Basics
As simplistic as it may seem, reinforcing good hygiene habits is perhaps the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to prevent the flu from propagating in your workplace. Remind your employees to participate in behaviors like washing their hands frequently, avoiding touching others, avoiding touching vulnerable areas (e.g., eyes, mouths, ears, etc.) without first washing their hands, and covering their coughs and sneezes. It may feel juvenile, but conscientiousness is the first (and main) step in stopping the flu.
If you work in a traditional office setting, you may also want to remind your employees not to share food, equipment, or personal furniture; providing sanitary wipes and encouraging your employees to wipe down communal surfaces will help make more widely used items as sterile as possible. The best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page is by posting notices throughout your office and in any pertinent areas (e.g., the bathroom) and leaving them up for the duration of the season.
Other resources to keep on hand include hand sanitizer, non-prescription remedies like Gatorade and Emergen-C, warm beverages, cough drops, and plenty of tissues. Disposable plates, utensils, and food containers will also prevent employees from interacting with shared dishes, and implementing a strict food isolation policy will compound on this method of prevention.
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Keep Sick Employees Home
One way to be absolutely certain that the flu will make its way into your workplace is allowing sick employees to come to work. It’s hard to enact any kind of no-exceptions policy, but preventing sick employees from coming to work is an issue for which you should dig in as hard as possible. The same goes for you—if you’re sick, find a way to run your side of the office from home, or appoint an employee to take your place for the time that you’re out.
Staying home can be the difference between losing an employee or two for a few days and losing half of the office for months on end, so the math checks out in your favor.
Of course, some employees are indispensable, and others may not be able to afford the time off. If this is the case, consider implementing a work-from-home policy for afflicted employees. If the tasks which they must complete are both crucial and contingent on them being present in the office, consider having them remotely walk another employee through the necessary steps.
If you can’t get around having the employee in the office, make sure that they’re only there for as long as necessary, and keep them away from other employees. It’s essential to keep the number of sick people in your office as close to zero as is possible.
Pitch Flu Shots
Flu shots aren’t always the difference between a catastrophic flu season and an inconsequential one, but they’re estimated to prevent the flu in around 30 percent of recipients—certainly not a negligible percentage for your purposes—thus, having your employees get their flu shots will lower the odds of infection in the office enough for you to consider them mandatory. Brief your employees on this policy as soon as flu shots are available, and don’t forget to follow up with them after a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, flu shots are often both time-consuming and expensive, making it hard to incentivize employees to get vaccinated. To combat the second of these issues, consider offering a half-day for any employees who need their shots; this will ensure that they have enough time to go through the actual shot process. You may also be able to host a clinic on-site, though this may prove more expensive than taking a half-day.
While the price of flu shots may dissuade some employees, remind any insured employees that their health insurance covers part or all of the shots. Uninsured employees might need an advance or a “bonus” to cover their shots—if so, just remember that paying for a few employees’ shots is still cheaper than operating at half-capacity while they’re out sick.
The flu season is a difficult time to maintain your productivity. Don’t let your business fall victim this year—for more tips on how to make the most of the next few months, call Abacus Payroll at (856) 667-6225 today!