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Keep a Healthy Work Environment this Flu Season

Julie Copeland

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Last week we offered our employees flu shots at our headquarters in Philadelphia. I’m happyOffer your employees fresh fruit to keep them healthy. to share that most of our employees took advantage of the preventative medicine.

We also started offering a variety of fresh fruit in our lunchroom. Later today, we have a Personal Health Coach coming in to help our employees keep focused on staying in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Why is Arbill making these health choice investments for our employees?  Beyond being a nice thing to do and showing concern for our employees, it makes sense when you consider the high cost of illness.

It’s been reported that 100 million working days were lost to sickness in the U.S. during the last flu season. The corresponding dollar amount of lost productivity is $10 billion to the bottom line.

We all know that the flu can knock us for a loop and affect those around us as we deal with the chills, fevers, aches, and insufferable symptoms that run its course and shut us down physically and mentally. On average, 13% of the U.S. population gets the flu every year, with active flu seasons seeing closer to 20%, or more than 62 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition to the 100 million work days lost due to flu-related illness last season, more than one-third of those days would have been uncompensated with the costs borne by the employee, resulting in $6.8 billion in lost wages.

When it comes to sick time and employers' costs, nearly two-thirds of total missed work days would have been employer-paid, resulting in a cost of more than $10 billion to companies' bottom lines due to lost productivity. In addition to missed work days, nearly 2 million business trips were canceled last season, based on projections.

It’s estimated that nearly 80% of the estimated workers who should have stayed home with flu-like symptoms went to work anyway… potentially exposing their coworkers and the families of those coworkers to illness.

For some working parents, the 32 million school days that the report projects were missed due to flu also can translate to missed work days and other challenges. More than one-third of respondents with children said they need to make alternative child-care arrangements when their children are sick, while 40% would need to take time off of work to care for a sick child.

Businesses have a vested interest in minimizing the impact of the flu in the workplace. Employees who are sick should be encouraged to stay away from the office. Policies should be in place to deal with such scenario before they occur.  One sick employee could potentially spread illness throughout the entire company.  In addition to wanting to keep costs down and maintain productivity levels, employers also have a duty to their employees to provide a safe and healthy work environment.

Here’s what employers can do to maintain a healthy work environment and keep the flu from spreading illness throughout the workplace:

  • Help employees understand your company policy on sickness and the importance of staying home and not subjecting others to flu-like symptoms.

  • Workers displaying flu-like symptoms should be sent home to avoid spreading germs in the workplace.  Sick workers should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.

  • Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by both people who are well and those who have any symptoms of the flu. Encourage workers to wash their hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

  • Encourage workers to cover their coughs and sneezes:  Place posters in the worksite that encourage cough and sneeze etiquette and provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees. 

  • Clean surfaces and items that are most likely to have frequent hand contact and provide cleaning materials to employees so that they can clean their individual work spaces.

  • Offer Flu Shots: For every $1 spent by employers on vaccinations, medical costs decreased by $3.27 and absenteeism costs fell by $2.75.

  • Consider providing employees with complimentary bowls of fruit (apples, oranges, etc.) to promote a healthy food choice.

  • Prepare for increased absences and cross-train employees to cover essential functions

  • Advise workers about precautions they may need to take to protect their health and who to call if they become sick when traveling.

  • Prepare for the possibility of school dismissals or temporary child-care closures.  Strongly recommend that parents not bring their children with them to work while schools are out.

At Arbill, your employee health and safety is important to us.  Please visit Arbill.com or contact your Arbill representative to find out how we can help keep your employees safe and help you build a culture of safety within your organization.

Stay well and have a safe day!

Topics: Arbill, culture of safety, stay well in the workplace, healthy work environment, flu shots, work-related illnesses

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