Make it your Business to Fight the Flu

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The flu can be a miserable experience – characterized by severe aches, chills, high fever, cough, runny nose and a desire to stay in bed until the illness has run its course. But did you know the flu can also be a miserable experience for businesses? Are you prepared if your workforce calls in sick? Do you have appropriate resources to keep your workplace flu-free? Regardless of the size or type of your business, planning now can put strategies into place that will help protect your business and your employees during influenza season.

From a numbers standpoint, the flu ravages a business much like it does the human body. The CDC reports that up to 111 million workdays are lost every year because of the flu. And employees with sick children can cause a loss of anywhere from 11 to 73 hours of work, on average. Those lost workdays result in more than $7 billion in lost wages every year. And when an employee has a sick child, it can cost them anywhere from $300 to $4,000 in medical expenses.

So as a business owner or leader, what can you do to lessen the economic impact of flu and protect the health of your employees?

  • Educate your employees about what the flu is, its symptoms and treatments, and provide resources to dispel myths. There are many avenues for influenza information, but www.InFLUenceNevada.org is updated regularly and links to Nevada-specific tools and resources.
  • Lead by example and get vaccinated; and encourage your employees to do the same. A strong message from leadership that vaccination is recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months or older may encourage employees to get vaccinated. Offer on-site clinic opportunities or consider granting employees time off to get vaccinated.
  • Encourage employees to stay home if they’re sick. When possible, support telecommuting or work from home policies. Many employees feel a sense of guilt for calling in sick or not physically showing up at the office. Sick time (for businesses that offer it) is designed for this very reason: to prevent the spread of disease or infection. Reiterate the purpose of sick time, and remind employees to use any accrued time if they do think they have the flu.
  • Inform your employees about good hygiene practices, especially: coughing or sneezing or into the inside of your elbow, washing hands frequently, and using hand sanitizer if handwashing is not an option. Provide resources for a flu-free work environment: tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable wipes to clean work surfaces.
  • Prepare for increased employee absences. Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions. Assess the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations.

By working together this flu season, we can protect our employees, families and customers through prevention and planning. Being prepared makes good business sense, and is good for the health of the individual, our community, and Nevada’s economy.

This post is written by Heidi Parker, the executive director of Immunize Nevada.

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