Policies Employers Should Consider Implementing During Flu Season

Businesses lose over $576 billion annually from absent sick employees. Consider implementing these policies to help your workers stay healthy.

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Policies Employers Should Consider Implementing During Flu Season

Here's what you need to know:

  • Policies employers should consider implementing during flu season include voluntary or mandatory social distancing and allowing remote work
  • Encourage flu vaccinations among employees
  • Promote hygienic practices around the workplace

The flu season has reared its ugly head again this year. As a result, companies are trying, yet again, to prevent the spread of serious illnesses. When many people have the flu, it can cause businesses to take a direct hit of absenteeism, lack of productivity, and lost profits.

Businesses lose over $576 billion annually from absent sick employees. Even if they spend half a day at work sick, they are allowing germs to spread for at least 4 hours among common areas.

What’s more, their presence at work may not be worth it at all. This theory comes with consideration for their lethargic work ethic due to their illness.

Flu season typically starts in the fall and subsides around springtime. Some companies can’t begin to enforce strict, uncomfortable policies for 6-7 months out of the year. In that case, there are a few procedures and protocols to protect the health and safety of employees at any time.

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Voluntary or mandatory social distancing

Social distancing measures during the pandemic proved to be beneficial for vital disease control. Droplets from coughs, sneezes, or talking can contain traces of the flu. Knowing this, social distancing can still be helpful to minimize the volume of flu germs in an office space.

This method should apply in an office environment by spacing workstations out by 6 feet. A 6-foot space can display as markers placed on the floors.

Markers like these keep staff aware of the distance behind the next person. In an office, social distancing by printers, fax machines, and other shared equipment is important.

It may be a good idea to retire the common use of the break room or cafe during flu season or for a week after a person has been out sick with the flu.

During this time, employees should only make use of break rooms to make or retrieve food or drinks. This reduces the urge for employees to commune in the break room in close proximity to each other.

A healthy workplace culture will encourage employees to refrain from coming to work while they’re sick.

Another type of social distancing is more straightforward: time off. Employees who feel obligated to work while they’re sick do so either because they feel pressured by their employer, or don’t want to use a sick day. Most staff members who work while they’re sick say that they simply have too much work to do.

A healthy workplace culture will encourage employees to refrain from coming to work while they’re sick. Management should facilitate adequate coverage during this time.

This allows essential workers time for recovery without compensating for lost productivity. If paid sick policies are not applied to a workplace, they should be variably considered.

Encourage flu vaccinations among employees

Employers can implement mandatory flu vaccination programs for employees. Healthcare workers, for example, carry the lawful requirement to receive flu vaccines.

Non-healthcare-related businesses more commonly encourage vaccination rather than making it a mandatory practice.

It should be easy and affordable for employees to receive their vaccinations. This is a simple undertaking by making it a part of the company wellness program. In the spirit of encouraging vaccinations, employers can host an on-site clinic.

Doing this before November keeps them ahead of flu season. HR can appoint occupational health personnel to stand in as coordinators for a vaccination event held in the office.

After scheduling and arrangements, employees should receive free admission to outside clinics. This works best when they’re allowed to attend while still on the clock.

Management can release promotions for the event from posters. Other effective methods look like informative e-newsletters or emails with instructions about attendance.

A company can use incentives for those who get vaccinated. This could look like a friendly competition between departments to see which team gets the most vaccinations. The winning department can receive gifts, a luncheon, or discounts on company merchandise.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not getting vaccinated. These individuals shouldn’t receive punishment for not participating. Reasonable accommodations can be set forth for those with religious beliefs or disabilities.

Promote hygienic practices around the workplace

Proper hygiene practices can reduce the spread of germs on shared surfaces. In an office, these surfaces are plentiful. For example, doors, counters, communal office machines, and appliances can all harbor germs.

Resources should be available for everyone in a workplace to adhere to hygiene policies. This could include:

  • personal hand sanitizers
  • a no-touch hand sanitizing station
  • no-touch soap dispensers
  • no-touch paper towel dispensers
  • personal tissues
  • no-touch trash cans
  • personal sanitation wipes and disinfectants

Employers can post signs in the bathrooms and other common areas. These posters remind employees of sanitary etiquette, like washing hands with soap or using hand sanitizer.

Disposable masks can be available to employees for free. This is especially helpful for those who want to instill an extra layer of protection for themselves and others.

Other posters and signs should provide information to employees. These can be about the importance of hygienic practices. These can be straight from the CDC for instilling severity.

On the other hand, they can be more engaging bulletins that encourage fist bumps instead of handshaking.

Sometimes it’s better to not leave all the cleaning up to the janitorial staff. During cold and flu seasons, a policy can require staff to wipe down their workstations before they leave for the day.

Allow remote work to decrease the risk of germs spreading

Working remotely effectively decreases the risks of flu germs spreading across the office. Remote or hybrid work opportunities allow employees to minimize contact with other workers. This can also take the form of reasonable accommodation for a person who is at high risk of getting the flu.

Not everyone with the flu will have an apparent fever before they become obviously sick with flu symptoms. If these employees can work remotely, they can stay home during the first 3 days. This is the point when the flu is the most contagious, whether they know they have it or not.

Working from home diminishes the possibility of an essential worker becoming sick from office germs. This also eliminates their risk of being unproductive from not attending work at all. Furthermore, it helps workers save on commuting costs, which can go toward their holiday expenses.

Another small remote opportunity up for adoption is substituting more virtual meetings for in-person meetings. Some meetings don’t necessarily require the entire office or team to attend in person.

In the case where they do, a conference call or Zoom meeting will suffice. This decreases the existence of group meetings where individuals are in an enclosed space exchanging germs.

It’s worth it to prevent the spread of flu at work

The flu can cause a whirlwind of uncomfortable symptoms that are hard to bear. Employers will do well to help guide their employees at this time. They can enlist some of the best policies to help slow the spread of illnesses in their place of business.

The flu has no mercy on people who are needed at work. Symptoms can begin to subside after a few days, and each person will see their immunity work at different paces. Without proper care and health precautions, the flu has the potential to be deadly.

Having an absent worker due to sickness is nothing compared to having to replace them entirely. Coming to work sick only increases the likelihood of more employees getting sick. Conclusively, it increases the chances of carrying it home to their loved ones as well.

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