flu workplace wellness

Get Smart About Flu Season: How Workplace Wellness Can Help

As we approach the middle of the flu season, we’ve reached a key time for an important reminder: Protecting against the flu helps employees individually and businesses generally.

We previously noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created their Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2017-2018 Influenza Season: “Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations…The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”

The Washington Post quotes Kaiser Permanente Northern California doctor Randy Bergen: “We’re seeing the worst of it right now. We’re really in historic territory, and I just don’t know when it’s going to stop.”

How costly can the flu be for businesses?

Employee Benefits News notes: “Employees miss an average of five workdays per year due to the flu, at a cost of about $200 per person for each lost day. That means for a workforce of 250 employees, flu season could cost $250,000 in missed workdays every year. And, with between 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations from the flu each year, adopting preventative steps to cut your company’s exposure is vitally important for your employees’ health and your bottom line.”

Of course, a key guidance for protection against the flu is to get a flu shot. There’s still time. But other actions can also matter, many of which can be implemented as part of a well-run workplace wellness program.

Employee Benefits News states: “there’s always room for simple, yet effective prevention practices for the entire workforce. Wiping down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes kills many different viruses, including the flu. Hand sanitizer also limits the spread of flu, especially if it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol. This percentage ensures the product will have maximum effectiveness in killing germs.”

The Washington Post piece adds:

  • “As much as possible, avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.”
  • “Masks aren’t particularly effective in keeping you from catching the flu, although they may help keep sick people who wear them from spreading their germs.”
  • “If you are sick, cover your cough and stay home from work if you can… Remaining hydrated, eating nutritious foods and exercising can also help strengthen your immune system.”