Simple ways to reduce flu’s impact in the workplace

The flu season is in full swing. According to the Verde Independent, the Arizona Department of Health Services has reported 60 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Arizona, and there is a strong possibility the number represents only a small portion of the true picture in the state.

According to the state’s health department, the flu vaccine is the best defense against the flu. However, if workers received the shot and still become sick it’s not too late for employers to lessen the impact of the flu on the workforce. Here are some tips:

1. Identify risk to understand when to see a doctor
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests employers understand their workforce’s level of exposure risk and take steps to limit the spread of the illness among the workforce. For example, healthcare workplaces often are categorized as having very high exposure risk, according to OSHA. So employers in that industry may wish to take special precautions, such as encouraging workers to take a sick day as soon as they feel ill or requiring employees to wear masks at all times. Workplaces with lower exposure risks may want to implement similar precautions as high risk environments, but these workplaces also may limit employee contact with one another.

It also may be beneficial for employees to determine their individual risk of contacting the illness. According to the Chicago Tribune, those with lowered immunity or who work in environments that have a high risk of exposure may want to see their physicians when symptoms first appear.

2. Create sick day use or work from home policies
For those workers who do contract the flu, understanding they are able to use a sick day to get well may be beneficial. Many workers put off receiving treatment and come into the office or worksite when they are sick because they don’t feel as if they can take a day off. However, if they feel they are able to take a sick day without being penalized or can take their work home with them, employers may be able to prevent the illness from spreading. According to OSHA, sick day use and work from home policies may limit exposure.

3. Provide vaccines to employees’ family members
Many employers provide their employees with access to flu shots, but it may be more beneficial to extend flu shots to family members. According to HR.BLR., offering vaccinations to family members or employees’ dependents may help to prevent the flu from spreading from a family member to a worker and subsequently to the rest of the workforce. Employers may want to provide flu shots to workers’ families.

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