The flu is nobody’s friend, as anyone who has fallen prey to this annual menace will tell you. Fever, aches, nausea and general debilitation are bad enough to deal with – but there is an economic and business cost as well as general misery.
That cost is considerable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between five and 20 percent of the U.S. population falls prey to the flu each year; tens of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die from its effects. The direct medical costs come in at over $10 billion; $16.3 billion are consumed in lost earnings. For companies faced with the absence of critical employees and flu-related loss of productivity, the real cost can be incalculable.
In the case of an individual business, the ramifications of employee illness are fairly easy to foresee: An employee who is absent due to illness is not doing their job, and the work either falls on others’ shoulders – thus impeding their own work, and compromising efficiency – or it doesn’t get done at all. In cases where the illness spreads, the result is multiple absences, and an exponential magnification of this effect. The logical conclusion: Investing in workplace flu prevention measures isn’t just a compassionate gesture towards employees; it’s good business.
So what can you do to help keep employees healthy during flu season? Start by establishing common-sense guidelines and practices for tackling the flu head on:
- Let sick employees stay home. Sure, it’s inconvenient when a key employee’s absent – but nowhere near as inconvenient or costly as multiple absences would be.
- Maintain Sanitary Conditions. Encouraging employee handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces such as restrooms and break areas, and discouraging sharing of high-touch items such as phones reduces the likelihood of contagion.
- Encourage vaccination. Even unvaccinated employees have a better chance of staying flu-free if their colleagues are vaccinated – their exposure to the virus is reduced.
- Supply hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. Hand sanitizers in rest rooms and disinfectant wipes near high-touch equipment such as phones and shared workstations provides active support to employees working to keep themselves and their workplaces disease-free.
Ensure air cleanliness. HVAC equipment can be your enemy when it comes to airborne pathogens and pollutants. Making sure that furnace and air conditioner filtration systems are clean and functioning properly can greatly reduce the spread of flu and other illnesses.
Don’t let the flu put a dent in your productivity or profitability this season. Taking a few simple steps like these can go a long way towards keeping your company and employees flu-free.
For more information, download our “Flu-Free Workplace” newsletter here.