We’ve all experienced the unpleasant symptoms of influenza, or the flu, one too many times: fever, chills, aching muscles, fatigue and more. Many people suffer from the flu each year and, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 200,000 people are hospitalized annually due to seasonal flu-related complications.
When employees get the flu, they should stay at home for several days to rest and allow their symptoms to pass so that they are no longer contagious. However, many people can’t miss out on their daily responsibilities. Yet if they attend work, they’re certainly not performing at their usual levels and may also infect others, extending the cycle of illness to more and more people. An estimated 111 million workdays are lost each flu season, costing $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.
Not only is the flu an added expense for businesses, it ends up costing individuals too. In fact, the flu costs the average person roughly $130 for doctor’s visits and medicine. If the employee doesn’t have paid sick leave, they’re also losing out on their wages while they recuperate.
In order to maintain a healthy workplace, it’s important to consider the following tips during the year, and especially during flu season:
- Advise that employees get vaccinated to reduce the chances of getting the virus. Everyone six months and older should get a vaccine and it’s especially recommended for young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and healthcare workers. The shot covers several common strains, and can make symptoms milder if illness occurs, according to the CDC.
- During flu season, increase cleaning frequency. Flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to 8 hours and can be easily transferred to and from surfaces and people. Disinfect high-touch surfaces to destroy or irreversibly inactivate all infectious bacteria. Examples include telephones, computer keyboards and light switches. Consider providing disinfectant wipes for employees to use at work and other public places to disinfect surfaces such as shopping carts handles and doorknobs.
- Teach proper hand hygiene to stop the spread of illness. This involves using soap and water whenever possible or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in between handwashing moments. Make sure restrooms are always well stocked with supplies that encourage handwashing, such as soap and paper towels.
- Encourage smart habits such as limiting contact with others when sick and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. When using tissues to cough and sneeze, it’s important to throw them away after each use. Getting enough sleep each night also helps the immune system more easily fight off illness.
Don’t let productivity plummet during flu season. Encourage employees to follow the steps above to maintain an illness-free environment year round. Doing so will not only keep them happy and healthy but protect the bottom line.
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