Cold and flu season is upon us once again, and unfortunately sick employees cost your business money. Regardless of whether they stay at home or manage to stumble their way into work; productivity is down.
In fact, according to the UK Office for National Statistics, minor illnesses (such as coughs and colds) are the most common reason for sickness absence, accounting for approximately 34 million working days lost.
With colds and flu both being highly contagious viruses, it is important as an employer that you do everything you can to prevent it spreading like wild fire in your workplace.
Clean Those Desks
Research by Printerland found that the average desk harbours more than 400 times the germs of a toilet seat!
And with keyboards, phones, office door handles and taps also harbouring bacteria responsible for the spread of cold and flu – it’s a good idea to encourage your staff to clean out their desks on a regular basis.
If you don’t have a professional cleaner, you could devise a quick cleaning rota to ensure that the cleaning is being done on a regular and fair basis. Even placing a box of anti-bacterial wipes on desktops will allow staff to give keyboards a quick refresh before use.
Encourage Flu Vaccinations
According to research carried out by CDC, the flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by as much as 40-60% among the overall population. So, it almost goes without saying, if you want to reduce the amount of sickness absences in your business, you need to actively encourage your employees to get the flu vaccination:
- Consider allocating an hour of the working day to each employee, in which they are free to go and receive the vaccination.
- Give employees information and directions of where their nearest flu vaccination centre is. Most Boots and Superdrug stores now facilitate this service.
- If your business can afford to, offer to pay for vaccinations. Superdrug offer the vacination for as little as £9.99 and some employees may be eligible to receive the vaccination for free from the NHS.
- Also don’t forget to have the vaccination yourself to prevent the spread - business owners are not immune to the flu!
Implement A Work From Home Rule
With a cold, it is often especially difficult to know whether it is appropriate to stay home or to come into work. If it is clear that employees are feeling rotten, especially if they have the flu, encourage them or sometimes even insist, that they rest at home.
Flu symptoms are generally much more severe than cold symptoms, and the flu tends to come on much more suddenly. Sick employees are underproductive and can pass their virus on to others. Sometimes it is just much better for everyone if they stay away from work for a couple of days, get the rest they need and come back when they are properly recovered.
Catch It, Kill It, Bin It
The germs from just one sneeze can be spread up to 3 meters, and a single cough may contain as many as two hundred million individual virus particles.
The importance of good hygiene practice within the work-place should never be over-looked. The NHS Catch It, Kill It, Bin It campaign features a printable poster which details the three simplest steps for preventing the spread of the influenza virus. You can easily download the poster as a PDF and place it up around the office as a reminder to employees.
Better still, make sure all employees have easy access to tissues, hand wipes, and anti-bacterial soap at all times. Consider installing an automatic soap dispenser and hand dryers and ensure that there are plenty of bins around the workplace (particularly under desks) to prevent mounds of dirty tissues building up on surfaces.
An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
Eating an unhealthy diet leaves you more susceptible to getting ill, colds and the flu included. A well-balanced diet, involving plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential to keeping employees healthy and immune systems strong. Whilst you can’t force employees to eat their five-a-day, you can encourage them to:
- Order a selection of fruits and vegetables to the office/staff-room each week. Just placing a fruit bowl on desks for staff to snack on, will not only boost health but it will also boost morale and productivity.
- Consider running communal exercise classes which appeal to everyone. From group yoga sessions to a Friday night football match. Again while this is an important factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it will also bring your team closer together.
Create A Communal Self-Care Kit
Having a cupboard or box in the office, with tissues, cough sweets and paracetemol is a thoughtful and supportive touch for any sick employees who have managed to make it in to work.
Nothing is worse than the stress of realising you have left the house without painkillers when you are feeling unwell. Having cold and flu remedies available for staff will help them feel better and more alert throughout the day, which in turn will maximise their performance.
Focus On Fluids
You lose an increased amount of liquids when you are unwell, from sweating, sneezing, having a runny nose etc. Dehydration makes symptoms much worse and will slow down recovery time. Thus, ensuring your team are well hydrated, especially thoughout cold and flu season, is very important.
Having tea, coffee, water and/or squash readily available will encourage people to drink more. Consider implenting a 2 litres a day drinking challenge amongst colleagues with a prize incentive.
Unfortunately, the dreaded cold and flu season is inevitable. However, taking the correct measures will help to reduce the negative impact it can have on your business and your employees. Saving your staff members, a nasty headache and that awful runny nose, and also saving you money.