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Five Ways to Fight Flu’s Effects in the Workplace

by John Stebbins on Feb 4, 2020 3:49:17 PM

It’s flu season, and February is historically the height of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But influenza activity can last as late as May and causes US employees to miss about 17 million workdays each year at an estimated $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity, says the CDC.

To protect your business and your employees, promoting vaccination is the most important step. Ideally, vaccination should occur before the onset of flu activity in a community but should still be encouraged later in the season as long as viruses are circulating. But preventive efforts don’t end there. Employers should take several other precautions to reduce transmission of the virus.

  • Promote Workplace Etiquette: In company communications, share tips with workers to avoid contamination. Suggest they cough into a sleeve or tissue and wash hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose. If soap and water aren’t readily available, recommend they use hand sanitizer.
  • Stock Common Areas with Supplies: Provide ample hand sanitizer, tissues, and disposable towels along with a no-touch wastebasket to dispose of them in areas like restrooms, lobbies, and hallways. And be sure to check them regularly and refill the supplies as necessary.
  • Encourage Sick Workers to Stay Home: Educate employees on the signs and symptoms of the flu and explain the importance of staying home when they have a suspected or confirmed illness to prevent spreading the flu. The CDC recommends that workers should not return until they are fever free without the use of medication for at least 24 hours or, if they didn’t have a fever, for four to five days from the onset of symptoms. Inform employees about your sick or PTO policies for staying home when sick or to care for a sick household member and remind employees about usage, for example, rules for notifying you. Here is a sample sick leave policy.
  • Keep the Workplace Clean: According to OSHA, keeping an environment clean is an important workplace control so be sure to have sufficient cleaning and sanitation materials on hand. Frequently clean commonly touched public areas like doorknobs, counters, copiers, and phones, and consider providing disinfectant wipes for workers to use in their own spaces.
  • Develop Flexible Policies: The key to preventing the spread of the flu is to keep sick people away from healthy workers. But many employees don’t think they can afford to miss work or feel pressured to come in – even though showing up and not fully functioning can cut an employee’s productivity by a third or more according to the Harvard Business Review. That’s why it may make sense to offer more flexible policies that allow employees to work alternative work schedules that will limit their contact with others or to work from home.

For more tips on promoting workplace health and productivity during flu season, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 401-332-9325.


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