Are You [and your company] Ready for Flu Season

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The headlines are filled with talk of Ebola butI wanted to turn attention a little bit towards the flu. I’m sure that you and your company are encouraging flu shots — but if that’s all that you’re doing… you may not be ready. Regardless what industry you’re in, here are a few things you should be thinking about. This is a key part of our jobs as HR people to help support the business and we should give it some kind of consideration.

First off, if you’re not encouraging the flu shot — encourage it. WebMD reports that about 45% of the U.S. population aged 6 months and older got a flu shot last season. While its significantly higher for those in the healthcare industry — that’s still a lot of people who aren’t protected through a vaccine. Regardless how you feel about the vaccine, making it easy for those who DO want to get the vaccine will help in your preparations. If your health plan offers discounts or covers vaccines be sure to call that out to your employees. Consider working with health partners and providers who may even offer to do this for you onsite — I think that some places will even bring a bus so you don’t have to have a space to give them to set-up. So many grocery stores and big box stores are offering this now — no appointment needed — work with those in your area. Speaking of partnerships — don’t be afraid to work with other businesses in your area, especially for organizations that are smaller or in a more remote location.

Next, take a look at your sick time policies and practices. If you have employees who are sick what are their options? You may be looking at the screen now saying, “DUH, Andrea, if they are sick they should use their sick time.” However, you and I both know that not everyone has sick time… whether its because they ran out, they are in a probationary period, or they are a consultant for you. So be sure that you know how that might work and have a plan. I also read in the same WebMD report that anywhere from  5% to 20% Americans get the flu and about 200,000 hospitalizations.  Do you read that and blow it off and say, “Whatever Andrea — that’s mainly the very young and very old, likely not in the range of my employees.” I’d tell you to think again, those children and elderly may be OF your employees and they may need to help take care of them — so be sure to evaluate your practices and programs for those situations as well.

And speaking of taking care of others who may be sick— consider options that you have for keeping sick people at home so that you can keep your healthy people healthy. Encourage people who are not feeling well or maybe even taking care of others who may be ill to stay at home. This is where you have to give some thought to your business and possible options. For some, working from home is a real option. I know for me personally having the option to work from home has been wonderful option when I’m feeling sick — I can still take conference calls, stay on top of urgent items, and feel good knowing that I’m not spreading any more germs. Frankly what is more stressful to me all the work that I think I’m missing because I am sick so I want to rush back to the office so get back to it and then ultimately end up getting sicker because I pushed too hard. I bet you have been there too. If this is an option for your business and workers, invest in equipment and resources to make this really work.

Now I also remember a time in my career when working from home was not an option — for example, when I was in retail. If this is your option, look at your staffing plans and try to staff up for those who may fall ill. Don’t stress your team out by making them feel like if they do not have the option to take sick time because there is not enough coverage to handle the work. Plan for it. Get with your managers and think about what might work best for you — it could be everything from literally adding more staff, hiring seasonal employees, or even implementing an “on-call” program.

Finally think about how to keep your healthy people healthy — its mostly just the basics — wash hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, disinfect items. Here is a more  complete list of things that you can do to help prevent the spread of the flu from the CDC.

What’s your flu season prevention plan(s)?

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