Keeping the Flu at Home: Preparing Your Employees for this Season

SickWomanWork_43The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent an advisory to doctors noting that more than half of the 85 influenza virus samples it had analyzed were different than the virus strains included in this year’s vaccine. This means that the virus has mutated and there is a risk of vaccinations being less effective than it has in the past. So far, this year’s most common strain of the flu is influenza A. Previously, influenza A has had higher hospitalization and death rates than other strains. There are several things employers can do to help their employees prepare of this flu season:

Educate: Make sure that employees understand flu symptoms and how the flu virus is spread. Remind them of preventative measures they can take such as healthy eating, plenty of sleep, regular washing of hands, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and drinking lots of fluids.

Vaccinate: While this season’s vaccination may not be as effective in prevention as it has been in past years, a vaccination can decrease the severity and longevity of the flu symptoms. Dr. Derek van Amerongen, chief wellness officer at HumanaVitality, a Chicago-based wellness program sponsored by health insurance company Humana states, “It may not be as highly effective as we usually see, but it is still the best preventive step we can take.”

Review: Make sure to review your paid time off and sick leave policies with your employees so that they feel it is okay to stay home from work if they are battling the flu. “Creating a culture of wellness where employees know that they can take a sick day, work from home when they are ill, or that there’s a contingency plan to help maintain normal business operations in the event they’re out sick can all help mitigate that feeling of ‘I have to go into work,’ ” states Alan Kohll, founder and CEO of TotalWellness, a national wellness services provider.

Remind: If an employee has flu-like symptoms remind them it is best to stay home or work from home until they are fully recovered. One person can infect an entire office. The more the flu virus spreads the more exhausting it is for the company.

Example: If you are a leader within your organization, please make sure that you set an example for everyone else. “Senior leaders need to stay home when they’re sick so employees feel comfortable to do the same,” van Amerongen said. “Senior leaders can make it a regular point to midlevel managers that staying home when sick is an organizational expectation.” You have to ask yourself the question, “How productive will I really be anyway if I am sick?”