It may be common knowledge that the flu is a miserable experience – characterized by severe aches, chills, high fever, cough/runny nose and a desire to stay in bed until the illness has run its course. But what some may not realize is that the flu is also a miserable experience for businesses.
From a numbers standpoint, the flu ravages a business much like it does the human body.
- It knocks you down: Research from a recent flu season, for example, indicated that 60 percent of the people hospitalized from flu were working age (18-64 years old).
- It keeps you down: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that up to 111 million workdays are lost every year because of the flu. And employees with children sick from flu can cause employees to lose anywhere from 11 to 73 hours of work, on average.
- It takes a long time to recover: Lost workdays alone result in more than $7 billion in lost wages every year. And when an employee has a sick child, it can cost them anywhere from $300 to $4,000 in medical expenses.
So as a business owner or leader, what can you do to lessen the impact of flu on your business and protect the health of your employees?
- Lead by example and get vaccinated and encourage your employees to get their flu vaccine. Every business has a way to communicate with employees – whether it’s through a formal employee newsletter or just a simple email to your staff. A strong message from leadership that the flu vaccine is recommended by the CDC for all people over the age of 6 months may encourage employees to get vaccinated.
- Educate your employees about what flu is, its symptoms and treatments, and provide resources to dispel myths.
- Encourage employees to stay home if they’re sick. When possible, support telecommuting/work from home policies. Many employees feel a sense of guilt for calling in sick, but sick time (for businesses that offer it) is designed for this very reason: to prevent the spread of disease or infection among coworkers who work in close proximity. Reiterate the purpose of sick time, and please send a message to your employees to use any accrued time if they do think they have the flu.
- Remind your employees about good hygiene practices, especially important during flu season: coughing or sneezing or into the inside of your elbow, washing hands frequently, and using hand sanitizer if handwashing is not an option.
“It is vital for businesses to communicate with their employees about flu prevention strategies,” said Immunize Nevada Executive Director Heidi Parker. “We appreciate all that businesses do toward that effort, and we want to make the process as easy as possible for them.”
To that end, Immunize Nevada has put together a business flu toolkit, available online at www.influencenevada.org/toolkit. This tool kit contains resources for business owners and leadership to use to communicate flu information: Posters for use in employee break rooms, newsletter articles, downloadable social media messaging are all part of the toolkit.
“Your expertise is in your business; our expertise is helping provide resources and educational materials about the value of vaccines — specifically this time of year, flu vaccines,” Parker said.
For more information about flu vaccine, statistics, logic, flu prevention strategies and vaccination clinics, follow Immunize Nevada on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Or visit www.influencenevada.org for more information.