It is that time of year again…flu season. The peak of flu activity is happening right now and will continue until February. That means everyone needs to take precautionary measures to prevent getting sick and spreading the illness, especially at the workplace. Employees that work in close proximity to each other are particularly susceptible to the flu and the other highly contagious illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people infected with the flu can spread it to others up to six feet away by droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Others can also get the flu from touching surfaces and objects that have the virus on it, and then touching their face. Employees working so close together, sharing spaces and supplies are exposed to contaminated surfaces every day; therefore it is important to take steps, as an individual and a company, to help reduce the chances of getting and spreading the flu.

Flu Prevention at the Individual Level

Do not wait until your colleagues are sick to take action!

  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces
    • Wash, wipe, and sanitize sink faucets, door handles, breakroom counter tops, and shared materials and supplies
  • Wash your hands often
    • You should always wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom and being outside
    • You should be especially diligent about washing your hands if you are in a position where you are shaking a lot of hands and in contact with a lot of people
  • Cover your nose and mouth
    • Use a tissue or the inside of your elbow to avoid spreading germs from coughing and sneezing
    • Even if you think you may not be sick, most healthy adults can start infecting others a day before their own symptoms start to develop
  • Get vaccinated
    • This is the best way for everyone to reduce their chances of getting the flu
  • If you are sick, stay home
    • If you start getting flu-like symptoms you should stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone – you need rest to recuperate!

Flu Prevention at the Company Level

Presenteeism is a big problem for many companies. Employees who for many reasons, an intense commitment to the company, inability to afford an unpaid day off, fear of appearing weak or falling behind, etc., continue to work even in poor health. Presenteeism can cause productivity loss, exhaustion, and workplace epidemics. Researchers have found that managerial support and structured employee wellness programs were key to eradicating presenteeism.

  • Paid-Time-Off Policies
    • Educate your employees on the company PTO policy
    • Relatively healthy individuals should allocate about five or six PTO days a year for sick leave
  • Telecommuting
    • Consider creating a policy about telecommuting to allow for sick employees to continue to participate in work while recuperating and keeping the office virus-free
  • Wellness Programs
    • Possibly host an information session about health and wellness topics to encourage employees to use their PTO days for sick leave, adopt sanitary habits to keep the workplace clean, and prioritize their health and general well being

 

References:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/01/17/flu-season-etiquette-what-you-need-to-know-about-sickness-and-the-office/#4daed6c925c0

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/employees-come-to-work-with-the-flu-.aspx

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/how-hr-can-help-curb-presenteeism.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm

 

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