Flu Prevention in the Workplace: Staying Healthy Through Fall and Winter
Flu season is upon us. When employees call out sick, it puts a burden on the rest of the staff. Absenteeism piles extra work on others, impacting company morale and the bottom line. Rapidly-spreading communicable diseases may lead to many sick staff members over a short period of time. The best way to combat illness is through preventative measures. For example, you should get the flu vaccine, wash your hands, and sanitize your work environment.
Make Flu Shots Available
The single most effective way to prevent influenza (aka the flu) is yearly vaccinations. Simply put, the more people who get vaccinated, the better it is for everyone. This is because of herd immunity. More vaccines means are fewer infected people to transmit the illness. This protects children, elderly, and sick people who cannot get vaccinated.
Of course, businesses and schools can’t force their employees to get the flu shot. The CDC recommends two strategies for businesses and employers to encourage flu shots:
- Host a flu vaccination clinic in the workplace.
- Promote flu vaccination in the community.
Promote Proper Hand Washing
At restaurants, employees already wash their hands on a regular basis. Managers at any companies can make hand washing a company-wide policy. It’s of the utmost importance to keep plenty of soap and paper towels in stock. Also, an “employees must wash hands” sign should be displayed as a friendly reminder. Provide plenty of hand sanitizer in common areas, and review proper hand washing at staff meetings. The CDC recommends the following steps:
- Wet hands with clean, running water.
- Lather soap by rubbing hands together.
- Scrub for 20 seconds—backs of hands, between fingers, under nails.
- Rinse hands under clean, running water.
- Dry hands using a clean towel.
Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize!
After hand hygiene, the best way to protect your employees and customers is to disinfect key areas of your business. Be sure to sanitize the most touched areas—door handles, light switches, phones, and any other areas that you and your employees handle regularly. Restaurants should disinfect menus, condiment bottles, and high chairs. At schools, remember to clean desktops, student chairs, and shared supplies. One of the best ways to sanitize is to use single-use wipes instead of rags soaked with sanitizer. Rags are often just spreading the germs around instead of doing the work of killing pathogens. Germs then get transferred to anything that touches the service, even though you’ve taken the time to wipe down the area.
Encourage Employees to See a Doctor
Even with all the preventive measures, some employees may still get sick. Those who are truly ill should call in sick to work. That may seem counter-intuitive to the premise that absent staff is a financial burden. However, one staff member out with the flu for a week is preferable to spreading the germs to others. Encourage employees to visit the doctor if they have these early flu symptoms:
- Body aches and chills
- Sore throat and cough
- Gastrointestinal problems
There is no cure for the flu. Still, doctors can prescribe antiviral medicine like Tamiflu, which shortens the severity and duration of flu symptoms.
Businesses and schools can lessen the risk of flu outbreaks by taking active, preventive steps. Promote flu vaccination, make hand washing a company practice, and disinfect the workplace. These precautionary measures help decrease absenteeism and lead to a healthier work environment.