Seasonal flu is the reason behind 75 million sick days per year, which can cost employers more than $16 billion in lost productivity.
However, there are some things employers can do to help protect their team members from contracting the flu—thus reducing rates of absenteeism due to flu-related symptoms and decreasing healthcare spend on flu-related claims.
1. Encourage Employees (and Their Families) to Get the Flu Shot
Leverage posters or flyers to inform employees who come into the workplace on a regular basis about times and local places they can get their seasonal flu vaccination. Messaging can be distributed in common spaces, like break rooms, dining areas, bathroom stalls, and the office supply area.
If you provide flu shot vouchers to your employees, share the most convenient locations where they can make use of them. In addition, it would likely be worthwhile to encourage seasonal flu vaccination among your employees’ families by offering additional informational materials for your employees to take home and share with their family members. Don’t forget about your remote employees—post the same messaging on all channels of communication: newsletters, emails, the company intranet, and so forth.
And of course, a connected navigation solution (like Castlight) can remind all your employees to get their flu shot, inform them where they can get one, and help them sign up for a flu shot appointment.
Remember: Flu viruses are ever-changing, meaning flu vaccines can be updated from season to season to protect against the strains research suggests will be prevalent during the upcoming flu season. That’s why the ful shot is not a one-and-done thing! It’s important to get it each year so you can develop antibodies for the strains predicted to be most common.
2. Be Flexible
Implement HR policies that provide your people with the flexibility to get their flu shot, whether they’re getting it from their primary care physician, a nearby pharmacy, or an onsite clinic. It is important for them to be able to balance their work and staying healthy—you don’t want them to have to choose between one and the other.
3. Keep the Office as Germ-free as Possible
Promote respiratory etiquette in the office by providing education about the importance of covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, washing hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds, and using alcohol-based sanitizers (especially before touching something others will, like a stapler or a doorknob. And as we learned with COVID-19, masking can be a great way to mitigate the spread of germs.
If you provided flu shots in the fall, offer additional appointment availability through January for employees who did not receive theirs yet.
If an employee believes they have the flu—or if they have any symptoms of the flu—they should should be encouraged to stay home (and supported in doing so). If they have a fever, they should remain at home for at least 24 hours after it has subsided without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Otherwise, they should stay home until the severity of symptoms have lessened.
Furthermore, prepare and advise employees on policies regarding caring for other sick members in the home or children. This is where flexibility comes into play again. Offering flexible leave policies and work arrangements can stop the spread of flu at your organization, enable employees to maintain their work functions while minimizing contact with others, ensure the continuation of work operations, and encourage your employees to look after their health (and the health of their loved ones) and support work-life balance.
All in all, by encouraging your employees to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu, offering flexible arrangements to stop the spread, and encouraging healthy hygiene habits in your organization, your employees can stay as healthy and happy as possible throughout the flu season.
This post was contributed by Castlight Ecosystem partner Quest Diagnostics.
Quest Diagnostics Health & Wellness is the national leading provider of biometric screenings and related health-improvement solutions. With the Blueprint for Wellness solution, organizations leverage screening insights to identify chronic disease risks and deliver individualized health-improvement plans. After each program, population-level reporting provides insights into an organization’s health. These insights serve as a foundation to guide planning for future benefit design, leading to healthier, more engaged employees, and a reduction in healthcare costs.