Tips for Preventing and Handling Flu in the Workplace

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Tips for flu prevention at work

If it seems like flu season never ends, it’s because it doesn’t. What can sometimes end is our vigilance to protect ourselves and others from it.

We reached out to Amy Mosher, Chief People Officer at isolved, for some tips for the workplace. Founded in 1986, the company is a leader in employee experience, providing intuitive, human-centric HCM tools.

Tips on how to prevent a flu outbreak in your company

Here’s a Q&A with Mosher on how small businesses can work effectively to prevent a flu outbreak.

Preventing widespread disease is essential to keeping employees at work rather than at home, sick and unavailable. Too many employees being sick at the same time can really disrupt the normal operations of a small business.

Small Business Trends: What are some tips for using common office spaces like break room, copiers, phones?

Mosher: It’s important that managers do what they can to keep their workforce healthy, especially when it feels like flu season is never ending. COVID has taught us a lot about how to stay healthier in the workplace. Now is the time to put that knowledge and hyper-awareness to good use to prevent work-related illnesses.

A good first step in protecting employees is to be proactive and implement preventative measures in shared office areas before there is an increase in office sickness rates. The pandemic has taught us the importance of disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, washing our hands and maintaining social distancing whenever possible.

Start stocking up on disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues in common areas. Reintroducing these practices and providing supplies will help create a safer environment for employees.

Employers may also consider setting up an in-office flu shot clinic, which will provide employees with a more convenient and accessible way to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their co-workers from the flu. If a company can’t offer an on-site immunization clinic, resources like HR newsletters or flyers in shared spaces can help employees find locations that offer seasonal flu shots.

Now is also a good time to remember healthy practices, such as Examples include washing hands properly, covering coughs and sneezes, and recognizing flu-like symptoms. Small business owners should check the CDC website for preventive guidance and resources for employees who may be at high risk for serious flu complications.

Small Business Trends: What Policies Should Management Establish for Employees With Flu Symptoms? Should they stay at home? Should they do a Covid test?

Mosher: It is important that small business leadership and frontline managers agree on flu management guidelines and remain consistent so as not to create confusion or inadvertently demonstrate favoritism among employees. Management should educate and advise frontline managers on how to make quick staffing decisions when employees call in sick and what symptoms can lead to someone being sent home early.

Employers should advise team members to stay home if sick for at least 24 hours after fever has subsided or symptoms have improved. Employers can also refer their teams to CDC guidance on symptoms for either the flu or Covid-19 to help employees determine if they feel the need to take a Covid-19 test.

Small business trends: Should employees of companies who interact with the public wear a mask?

mosher: When employees interact with the public, simple preventive measures can help minimize the spread of germs. Employers can provide masks to encourage employees to protect themselves from spreading or catching the flu, especially when working with the public. However, wearing masks should also be combined with other measures such as vaccinations, hand sanitizer, social distancing and disinfectant wipes. Providing various supplies in public areas can prevent customers from getting sick and employees from getting sick.

Small Business Trends: What Types of Sanitizers and Sanitizers Should Be Provided?

Mosher: A good place to start with supplies is to stock up on sanitizing products. Wipes, surface sprays and hand sanitizer should all be considered.

Employers should encourage a regular cleaning schedule for frequently touched surfaces such as phones, shared computers, and printers after each use. While it might seem awkward to wipe the phone after your colleague has used it, it’s better than potentially making two employees sick when it could be easily avoided.

Alternatively, a disinfectant spray can also help keep larger spaces like break rooms clean. Businesses should also stock up on tissues and masks and place them in common areas that are easily accessible to employees.

Small Business Trends: Should management develop a comprehensive plan for handling workflows and tasks should one or more employees be absent from work because of the flu?

Mosher: Small businesses are already struggling with limited staff and resources, and the spread of a disease can seriously impact their productivity when multiple employees are ill at the same time. In most work environments, I think business leaders can be proactive by developing a comprehensive flu plan that will determine how many absences the company can handle before business is disrupted. The plan should also include how to keep operations running when too many employees are ill or have to stay home to care for sick children or elderly relatives.

When management develops flu policies for employees, they should also create a work flow chart that appropriately and evenly allocates responsibilities to other employees. A complete workflow diagram simply helps to ensure business can run as usual, despite the absence of a key member or two.

Managers should also include flexibility in employee work schedules, allowing them to shift shifts or create an alternate schedule so fewer employees are in the office or in the same storage area at the same time if and when someone becomes ill.

Most importantly, in my opinion, employers should advocate for workers in any setting, whether it’s an office, warehouse, retail, delivery, etc. Stay cautious and follow good hygiene practices recommended by the CDC to take care of yourself to protect their colleagues and customers.

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