With the Flu season being in full swing, keeping it and other nasty illnesses out of the office can be a major challenge. According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, an estimated 55 million U.S. employees miss work annually due to an illness with a an estimated economic value loss of $260 billion dollars.
Ever wonder how the flu actually gets into your body? Here’s a great video from NPR:
So what can you do to keep the flu out of the office? Let’s break it down by steps an employer can take and steps employees can take:
#1 – Have a clear policy about sickness and how it should be handled by employees. Encourage sick employees to leave the workplace without concerns of lost wages. Would you rather have a single employee out for 5-7 days or a flu outbreak that hits 40% of the office?
#2 – Consider offering free flu vaccinations onsite as it’s the single best way to prevent the flu.
#3 – Make sure that the bathroom or restroom area is cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis during flu season. Most employees needing to blow or wipe their noses will do so here, and this is typically where the potential for infection is at it’s greatest.
#4 – Consider making hand sanitizer available all around the office or even given out out to each employee (if possible). Studies done by various groups including the CDC, indicated that, while hand washing with soap and water is still extremely effective, using alcohol based hand sanitizers WAS effective in reducing the spread of airborne viruses like the flu and common cold.Hand sanitizers were not proven effective against certain viral strains like norovirus.
#1 – Get a flu vaccination before the flu season (typically October to February) begins. The CDC has reported that it offers the single best form of protection against the flu.
#1 – If you are sick or showing symptoms of the flu, either stay home or leave work immediately. According to data published at www.flu.gov, a person infected with the flu is contagious one day before the symptoms appear and up to 5 – 7 days after first symptoms occur.
#2 – If you absolutely have to stay in the workplace, consider using a mask to help contain the virus. Try to stay away from other employees or work in a remote area.
#3 – Don’t return to work until you are symptom free from at least 24 hours. The flu has symptoms that can come and go, like fever, so it’s important to ensure that you are symptom free for at least 24 hours.