It’s flu season again, and this year has been particularly bad. There are reports of widespread outbreaks and even stories of a handful of tragic flu-related deaths. This terrible human toll, correctly, gets most of the attention, but there is a less visible consequence to a bad flu season: the impact on business.
According to U.S. government statistics, businesses were struck by about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016, the most recent year for which there are statistics. This equates to a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers, the U.S. Labor Department said, meaning you can expect about 3 percent of your workforce to miss some time due to injury or illness during a year.
That probably feels like a low estimate. There are times when it feels like the entire office is either out or has some kind of sniffle. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent one person's illness from impacting the entire office.
Keep a Long View on Productivity
Productivity is a key component of profitability. Any business owner knows this. But this fact can blind managers to longer-term concerns. Trying to squeeze the absolute most out of every situation can end up costing more in the end, creating true “penny-wise, pound-foolish” situations.
It can be tempting to coax a sick employee to come into work and push through an illness. However, this can end up much more trouble than it’s worth. Sick employees are less attentive, leading to potential errors and possible accidents. And of course, allowing a worker to bring an illness into the workplace only creates the risk of more infections and more lost productivity.
Encourage Employees to Stay Home
Along these lines, you should view employee sick days as a positive thing. It's true that occasionally workers abuse sick days. It's also true that having a worker out of the office can create short-term issues and an immediate hit on productivity. But losing one or two days from a single worker is a lot better in the long term than infecting the entire office.
Encourage Hand Washing
There are a lot of workplaces – restaurants for instance – where employees are repeatedly reminded to wash their hands. This isn't true everywhere however. And even when employees are prompted to wash their hands, the reminders tend to be posted in bathrooms. Further reminders to wash hands after sneezing or handling items in common areas can be helpful as well.
Keeping a clean work environment helps fight disease. Don't skimp on cleaning services. Besides creating a more pleasant and productive atmosphere generally, maintaining clean surfaces can stop the spread of disease. For extra protection, you can even step up cleaning activities during high-risk times, like when there is a flu outbreak.
Stock Hand Sanitizer and Kleenex
If you want a workplace that’s insulated from disease, you need to provide your employees the means to fight off germs. Make sure there is plenty of Kleenex and hand sanitizer around the office, giving your employees the items they need to stay clean and sanitary (and well).
If you find yourself hindered by cold and flu season, we're here to help!
If a bug gets into your office and threatens productivity, you can always turn to temporary help to take up the slack. If that situation comes up, request a consultation from Qualified Staffing.