The coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only disease that can cause outbreaks. Influenza or flu is another, and it can affect workplaces significantly.
According to a 2017-2018 CDC report, the health-related absenteeism among full-time employees reached 1.7% in October 2017. It almost doubled by January 2018 before it dropped to 1.4%. By then, though, it’s already July. The flu season can begin as early as August.
Absences can hamper productivity and efficiency, and they may also decrease employee engagement and morale. Workplaces need to strive to reduce the effects of the flu, beginning with these ideas:
1. Improve Ventilation in Working Areas
The flu can happen anytime, but the cases spike, and the chances of outbreaks increase during winter. One, people spend more time indoors, allowing the virus to spread fast. Second, viruses can thrive in colder environments because of low humidity.
Workplaces can increase the level of humidity by improving its ventilation system. For example, it can use an industrial gas heater to increase warmth. Another is to create better insulation to help trap heat inside the space. Updating the windows to double-glazed options may also help.
2. Encourage the Sick Employee to Work from Home
Many employees continue working even if they’re sick for two reasons. One, they need to deal with a massive workload. Two, they don’t want to use their leave credits (if the business has one).
An updated, easy-to-follow, and reasonable leave policy will work. But how about for those who still want to work?
An excellent strategy is to offer a work-from-home option. This way, the employee can rest at home without compromising their productivity or desire to work. The business may also allow the employee to work at their preferred schedule as long as they can produce the needed output by the end of the day.
3. Offer a Flu Vaccine
There’s much controversy surrounding the flu vaccine, especially because of its effectiveness rate. As of the latest CDC report, it is 45% effective against A and B viruses that cause seasonal influenza.
If the percentage is low, why should businesses consider it? Three reasons:
- It still protects against the most common types of flu viruses.
- If the person still develops the flu, the likelihood of complications decreases.
- It provides herd immunity. It extends protection even to those who cannot (or will not) undergo vaccination.
Many people in the workforce belong to high-risk groups. The US data revealed that the number of seniors still working increased by 35% in 2017. Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center report said that pregnant women stay longer before they take a long break.
4. Contain the Spread
The flu viruses spread through exposure to droplets, such as sneezing and coughing. Some studies showed that they might also linger on surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic.
The workplace can implement practical solutions to decrease the rate of infectiousness:
- Encourage employees who have sick family members to wear masks until their loved one recovers.
- Place hand sanitizers and soaps around the office.
- Make sure clean water is accessible at all times.
- Conduct training about maintaining hygiene in the workplace.
Healthy employees can contribute better to the organization’s growth. Businesses must support their well-being by reducing their risks of diseases, such as the flu.