Take a moment for this statistic from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to sink in: Each year, the flu costs the United States more than $87 billion and is responsible for the loss of close to 17 million workdays every flu season. What’s more – tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands die from flu-related illnesses each year. While it may still feel like summer outside, it’s not too early to start planning how to minimize the impact of this year’s flu season so employees can stay healthy and productive.
An Ounce of Prevention
Benjamin Franklin’s axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still rings as true today as it did over 100 years ago. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older as the first line of defense against the flu. Employers can play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety while increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism, lowering healthcare costs and limiting other negative impacts of the virus.
Offering flu vaccines in the workplace –whether an office or hospital – makes it easy and convenient for employees to roll up their sleeves. For remote workers and dependents of employees, it’s equally as important to communicate where they can get vaccinated – whether at a retail pharmacy or through their primary care provider. Managing a flu vaccination program doesn’t have to be daunting. A population health management provider can streamline flu vaccination events for any size workforce, facilitate scheduling, incentive tracking, claims billing and maximize engagement.
Practice Good Health Habits
In addition to receiving a flu vaccine, routinely practicing good health habits may also help protect against the flu. Reminding employees to follow these common-sense guidelines can help stop the spread of germs in the office. Consider sharing these 10 tips from the CDC in an all-employee email or posting reminders in break rooms and common areas.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands often. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated and then touches these areas.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Be physically active
- Manage your stress
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat nutritious food
Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home
Creating a culture of health starts at the top of any organization. Make it part of your company culture not to come into work if doing so will risk the health of other employees or customers. Presenteeism, when people come to work while they’re sick, is a common workplace problem that perpetuates the spread of germs.
The CDC recommends that all businesses, regardless of size, review their current pandemic flu plan and sick leave policies every year and communicate them to employees. To promote a healthy workplace, employers should have a plan in place to enable remote work as much as possible and provide employees with the tools and resources they need before the flu strikes. Employers can also consider offering flexible leave policies to allow employees to work from home to care for sick family members. In the event employees do get the flu, designating and training other team members ahead of time will ensure business-critical functions can continue with minimal disruption.
Now is the time to start planning for flu season. Get a head start by watching BioIQ’s on-demand webinar Flu Vaccinations 2.0: How to Leverage Technology to Maximize Program Success. In this fast-paced, 25-minute webinar, you’ll discover the most effective way to offer flu vaccinations to your population. Plus, we’ll reveal the latest technology that does all the work for you, while providing a positive and consistent experience for your participants.