Sick daze: Help employees shoo the flu out of the workplace

If you didn’t know it before, consider yourself warned. Flu season’s upon us! 
 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity increases in October and November, peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May.
Now’s the time to start preaching prevention so your department stays healthy.

5 stay-healthy strategies

Here are some flu-season tips, courtesy of TotalWellness Founder and CEO Alan Kohll:
1. Educate staff. Granted, people should know the basics, but reminding employees about how to avoid the flu keeps it fresh in their mind. The CDC website offers best practices, as well as flyers and posters you can hang or distribute in the workplace.
2. Focus on germ-filled areas. Research shows the dirtiest places in the office include the breakroom sink’s faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards and refrigerator door handles. You may want to have these areas cleaned more often than usual during the winter or leave hand sanitizers around these areas.
3. Review PTO/sick time policies. In addition to going over these policies, it’s important to remind workers to stay home when they have even an inkling of flu-like symptoms. Toughing it out could have disastrous consequences for the rest of the office. You may also want to consider expanding telecommuting options. After all, work-at-home options will limit the chances of a semi-sick employee spreading something to others through the entire office.
4. Have a contingency plan in place. It’s critical to be prepared to keep business operations running smoothly in the event key employees are out sick or the office is severely short-staffed.
5. Make it easy for staff to get vaccinated. From hosting an on-site flu-shot clinic to participating in a voucher program that allows staffers to get vaccinated at a local pharmacy, there are plenty of ways to help. Plus, websites like fluzone.com make it easy for workers to find a nearby flu shot location.
One practice to avoid this flu season: making flu shots mandatory. Doing so could run afoul of a number of federal regs (Title VII, ADA) and get you in trouble with agencies like the EEOC.

Rachel Mucha
Rachel writes about Human Resource management and has been a member of the HRMorning staff since 2017. She is a graduate of Ithaca College. Email: rmucha@hrmorning.com