Whether or not flu season is in full swing, it’s always beneficial to take precautions against the virus. One of the most important places to ramp up flu prevention efforts is in the workplace, since the illness can easily spread among employees.
In fact, the Staples 2018 Cold & Flu Survey revealed that more than a quarter of companies experienced a flu outbreak last year. Forty-four percent of people at those companies had the flu last season, and almost half believe they caught it from a colleague.
Find out more of the surprising stats from the flu survey below, and learn how to prevent the flu by taking proactive measures now to keep your office healthy all season.
1. Only 50 percent of respondents say their company does enough to prepare for flu season.
What you can do: Stock up on more supplies than you think you need ahead of time, since even a short lapse in flu-fighting supplies can enable the virus to spread. Supplies should include hand sanitizer and soap, tissues and antiviral items like disinfectant sprays and wipes to keep surfaces clean. Ask your team members what supplies they would be most likely to use to get a good idea of what to order. Set up a system so that employees can send notifications when items are running low to ensure you don’t run out.
2. Only 17 percent of companies offer a work-from-home option for employees when they experience flu symptoms and think they may be contagious.
What you can do: If their positions allow for it, provide work-from-home opportunities to those who have signs of the flu. Be sure to outline clear guidelines for what is expected while they are plugged in from home. For instance, ask for remote staff to be signed into a messaging service during business hours and check in throughout the day.
3. Just 53 percent of businesses provide sick leave. And 53 percent of respondents say they've come back to work before they felt better.
What you can do: Send out an email at the beginning of flu season detailing your sick leave policy to be sure people understand what options are available to them. Make sure their supervisor and colleagues know not to expect emails from them while they are out. Also, encourage workers who have flu symptoms not to come back into the office until they feel better. Although the worst of their symptoms might have subsided, they can still be contagious, putting other employees at risk. This is where a work-from-home option can come in handy to prevent the flu from spreading.
4. Only 36 percent of businesses provide time off for staff to get a flu shot. More than half of employees said they would get the flu vaccination if it was offered at work.
What you can do: Getting the flu vaccination is the most effective method for avoiding the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Make it easy for employees to take this precaution and contribute to the overall health of your team by hosting a flu vaccination clinic at your office. Partner with a health agency like your local department of public health or a hospital to offer vaccinations. Or create and distribute a list of local places where flu shots are available.
5. 45 percent of employees who caught the flu last year believe they caught it from a colleague.
What you can do: Support team members in their flu prevention efforts in the office. For example, put up posters throughout the office that outline healthy habits like covering coughs and sneezes. In the kitchen and bathrooms, display signs that demonstrate proper handwashing techniques. Launch a wellness program around better eating and exercise. Keep nutritious and tasty food options in the office breakroom, and encourage walking and stretching breaks every so often to motivate employees to move more.
The sooner you put preventative measures in place, the more confident employees will feel that your company is doing its part to battle the flu. Each of the steps will also help to shore up your team’s ability to stay healthy.