Millions of Canadians are impacted by the flu every year and thousands die annually from flu complications. For healthy people flu symptoms typically go away after about five to seven days, but many individuals report feeling weak for several days longer1. The flu represents a significant challenge for employers, with about 1.5 million workdays lost annually in Canada because of the flu, resulting in about $1 billion in healthcare and lost productivity costs2. Infected individuals are typically contagious beginning one day before any symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Because individuals can spread the flu before even knowing that they are sick, the flu travels rapidly from employee to employee working in close proximity.
In a survey of more than 3,700 employees about work and illness, the majority of respondents (72%) reported going to work when sick. 55% of respondents reported feeling guilty when calling in sick, even though 53% reported that they have become ill because of sick co-workers3.
Want to prevent the spread of flu this season at your workplace? Follow these helpful tips:
TIP 1: ENCOURAGE SEASONAL VACCINATION AND PREVENTIVE ACTIONS
- Encourage all employees to get the flu vaccine each fall.
- Keep common areas stocked with hand sanitizer and tissues.
- Provide flu prevention information in employee washrooms and common areas (eg. the importance of frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact).
- Provide information to employees with specific needs as it relates to the flu (eg. pregnant women or employees caring for young children or elderly parents).
TIP 2: REMIND EMPLOYEES STAY HOME WHEN SICK
- Before the flu season begins, ensure employees understand the importance of staying home when sick and are aware of the company’s sick day policies.
- When an employee comes to work with flu symptoms, remind them to go home and get well, and to stay home until symptoms have subsided.
- Encourage employees with a fever to stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medications).
TIP 3: PREPARE FOR A PANDEMIC FLU
- Pandemic flu is different from season flu and it is uncommon, with the last pandemic flu occurring in 20094. However, many experts believe the next pandemic flu is inevitable.
- A flu pandemic could affect as many as 40% of the workforce and has a major impact on the general public, businesses, and the economy. Employees may be absent due to their own illness or to care for sick children.
- Plan for the direct business impact of a pandemic flu (eg. financial, logistical) as well as the direct impact on employees and their families.
Help protect your employees from an influenza outbreak in your organization.
Download our FREE Guide to Flu Season infographic for your workplace!
TIP 4: SCHEDULE AN ON-SITE VACCINATION CLINIC FOR EMPLOYEES
- Flu season typically begins in the fall, yet many procrastinate getting the flu shot until the middle of winter, after seeing their friends and colleagues fall ill. By hosting an on-site flu vaccination clinic before the end of October, you can ensure employees get the maximum benefit of vaccination and optimize flu prevention.
- The inconvenience and stress of travelling to and from a doctor’s office or clinic during a busy workday prompts many to forgo or delay their annual flu shot. With an onsite flu clinic, employees don’t need to travel, prompting higher employee vaccination rates.
- When considering the broader flu-related costs to employers such as absenteeism and lost productivity, on-site flu vaccination clinics save businesses money by both reducing employee time away from work to get vaccinated and reducing flu related absenteeism.
- Onsite flu clinics, like other employee health and wellness programs, help boost employee morale by making employees feel cared for.
TIP 5: SPREAD THE WORD
- Encourage managers to get vaccinated to lead by example. Also, get managers involved in promoting the company’s onsite flu clinic and other flu-prevention measures. Having support from senior management will help boost participation.
- Provide flu posters and pamphlets about onsite flu clinics in high-traffic areas (eg. break rooms, elevators, cafeterias, etc.) and provide this information digitally (intranet, emails) to maximize awareness and participation.
- Ask employees how they are doing, send out an informal survey each year after the flu season to garner feedback and solicit recommendations for future years’ prevention programs.
- Get creative – try hosting a contest where employees in different departments compete for the highest flu vaccination rates for a prize that fosters team-building.