This year promises to be one of the worst flu seasons in the past decade, and that means you may end up having a number of employees who are off sick at the same time.
If the flu takes hold among your employees, it can quickly spread and force even more people than usual to take time off to get better. While it’s impossible to stop the flu from spreading in society, as an employer you can prepare for absences and also take steps to keep the virus from taking hold in your workplace.
Here’s what you can do to reduce the flu’s penetration among your workforce.
Urge your staff to get a flu shot
It’s not too late for people to get vaccinated. After a flu shot, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop antibodies. The winter is the best time to get the shot for the most long-lasting effectiveness.
No flu vaccine is 100% effective, so a flu shot is not a guarantee that your worker will not get sick. For example, the vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season was only 48% effective.
Urge employees to stay home if sick
The flu is often accompanied by a fever or nausea. Advise your workers to stay at home if they are feeling these symptoms because if they come to work with the early stages of influenza, they are most susceptible to spreading it. In fact, the flu virus remains contagious for seven days.
Tell them that while they feel they may be able to put in a full workday, not only is their work quality likely to suffer, but they can exacerbate their symptoms and put other staff at risk. Emphasize that their job won’t be at stake if they call in sick with the flu.
Have replacement personnel for key positions
We’re not talking about keeping someone on stand-by that doesn’t work at your organization. But for critical posts, it makes good business and risk management sense if you have more than one person trained to perform critical job functions at your facility.
If you don’t have someone trained for their job, you risk having an operational interruption, throwing your production schedule off track.
For workers with mild flu symptoms who are staying at home for the good of their co-workers, consider a telecommuting arrangement. If they are recuperating, they can hold video meetings on Skype and, if you have a VPN set up, they can access your database and their work, if they have the kind of job that can be done remotely.
Stock up on hand sanitizer
People who have just contracted the flu, but may not know it yet, can spread the virus through sneezes and touching surfaces that others may touch (think doorknobs). One of the keys to avoiding the flu is to keep your hands clean.
Place bottles of hand sanitzier or santizing wipes handy in various places at your facility. Make sure if you provide wipes that employees don’t need to open a lid to get at them (that’s just one more point of contact for the flu virus to populate and wait for the next victim).
Germ-killing wipes can also be used on non-porous surfaces, such as door handles and workbenches.
Order antiviral facemasks
Yes, we’ve all seen the photos of people in Asia wearing facemasks in public to either avoid spreading their germs or picking up a virus. But while most facemasks are only really good in not spreading the disease of the wearer, there are a few antiviral facemasks on the market that actually protect the wearer.
Curad’s Antiviral Facemask, for example, “inactivates 99.99% of tested strains of influenza viruses on five minutes contact with the surface of the facemask in laboratory (in-vitro) tests against … seasonal, pandemic, avian, swine, and equine influenza viruses.”
Humidify your air
The flu virus thrives in cold and dry environments and you can thwart it by installing a humidifier in your workplace. This is war, so any weapons you have to fight the spread of flu among your workers is worthwhile.