It’s that time of year again. Days are getting shorter, there’s a nip in the air, and people are coughing and sneezing wherever you look. Flu season is upon us and now is the time for employers to get ahead of the virus.
Each year, there’s a flood of information on what employees should do to prevent spreading cold and flu germs at work, but inevitably, people get sick. This leads to absences, which of course affects business. So, what can employers do to protect their employees and safeguard their business against the disruption caused by absences during the cold months?
Here are our top tips for being a pro-active flu season employer:
Offer free flu shots to your employees
The best defence is a good offence, right? Flu vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent the influenza virus. They drastically reduce the chance that people will catch and spread the disease, and even those that get it after being vaccinated typically have milder symptoms that resolve more quickly.
By offering free flu shots, preferably on-site, you increase your workplace’s herd immunity. This will protect any vulnerable workers who can’t get vaccinated and reduce the effect an influenza outbreak will have on your workforce.
Provide flu-smart information and resources
Prevention is better than cure! Put up some signs around the workplace that show good hygiene practices and provide your employees with hand sanitisers or anti-bacterial wipes. If you work in an office, make sure you’re taking a pro-active approach to the physical environment, paying particular attention to temperature, humidity and recirculated air.
Rethink your superhero work culture
It’s popular these days to refer to your employees as superheroes. It makes them feel empowered, it shows your appreciation of their expertise, and it’s a fun metaphor in general. But it can be harmful when employees feel like they have to live up to superhero standards. In flu season, this might make employees think that coming to work with a raspy voice and a case of the sniffles will prove to everyone that a head cold can’t slow them down.
But this is the worst attitude to have or encourage!
The average cold or flu is most contagious on the first day of symptoms, and will remain a threat for the 3-5 days following. That means all that gutsy “powering through” your workers are doing to impress you is putting your entire workplace at risk.
At the other end of the illness, remind people not to come back to work until they're symptom-free. Pushing too hard when the flu is still in their system can mean risking a relapse or a secondary bacterial infection that could knock them out for another week!
Promote flexible working conditions
Not every sneeze is going to turn into the flu, and sometimes people can still work even if they’re a bit under the weather. Where possible, encourage your employees to work remotely on days when they might be contagious. If they come in to work with a sore throat or sniffles, actively send them home. Remind them to rug up, stay hydrated, and work at reduced capacity if they need it. A couple of days of lower productivity is a lot better than a week of none at all, especially when everyone catches the same bug!
Offer an online doctor service
There are plenty of services nowadays that offer employees access to doctors via in-app video consultations. Many of these are included as part of a good employee health insurance plan, so if you already have this kind of service, make sure your employees know about it – and how to use it! These services free up time for employees who don’t have to travel and wait in line to see a doctor for minor problems. It also eases the burden on GPs who can be inundated with patients this time of year. Best of all, it reduces everyone’s exposure to other nasty bugs in the waiting room. Your employees will appreciate quick, easy and private access to advice, medical certificates, and even prescriptions in some cases.
Invest in a good absence management system
In a digital absence system, employees can enter their sick leave from anywhere, which then triggers an automated approval process, reducing admin work time for everyone. Keeping track of absence in a digital system, and being able to track patterns through data reporting over time, will help you manage your workforce more strategically.
If you’d like to find out more about managing absence with a digital HR system, take a look at what CatalystOne has to offer. If you’re ready to talk about your needs, get in touch with us to request a demo.