Research shows that flu and colds account for 10-12% of all absences from work. The greater cost to employers is presenteeism – adding up to an annual loss of $150 to $250 billion. With such staggering figures, employers are encouraged to incorporate anti-flu initiatives in their wellness program that provide awareness and decrease the risk of spreading the illness at the office.
Basics of Influenza (Flu)
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It infects the nose, throat, and lungs, resulting in a mild to severe illness, even death in some cases. Healthy adults can infect others one day before they exhibit symptoms and between 5 to 7 days after they become sick. Children and individuals with weakened immune systems can infect others for a longer period of time.
Individuals with the flu virus will experience some or all of the following symptoms:
• Fever or chills
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
Complications may develop for high-risk individuals, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Below is a list of high-risk individuals that are susceptible to flu complications:
• Children under 5 years of age (greater risk for children under 2 years of age)
• Adults 65 years of age and older
• Pregnant women
• Asthma sufferers
• Individuals with heart, lung, liver or kidney disease
• Blood disorder patients
• Morbidly obese individuals (BMI of 40 or greater)
• Individuals who’s immune system is weakened by disease
Reduce the risk of spreading the flu
Employees can reduce their risk of contracting and spreading the flu virus by following a few steps:
• Get the yearly flu vaccine – Receiving a flu vaccine is the first and best line of defense against the flu. The vaccine protects employees from the current season’s flu virus strain, and stops the spread of the virus in small quarters, like an office space. Vaccines take about two weeks to fully work so it’s best to get one early in the season.
• Wash hands often – The best way to avoid germs and diseases is to wash your hands after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
• Drink water through the day – Water will help the system flush out toxins from the immune system, and keep you hydrated.
• Cover hands and face – This will help minimise the spread of the flu virus from one person to another.
Initiatives against the flu
Employers can implement several initiatives to address the importance of flu awareness, and to avoid spreading the virus throughout the office. Below are some ideas to use in your wellness program.
• Sponsor flu shots onsite – Talk to your local clinic about sponsoring flu shots onsite. Be sure to provide convenient times for your employees before, during, and after work.
• Provide and encourage use of hand sanitisers around the office – Alcohol sanitisers are a great way to stop the spread of germs left by soap and water or in between washings. Keep these in convenient areas around the office.
• Encourage sick employees to stay at home – The best way to get over the flu is to rest. Be sure to remind your employees to stay home when they’re sick. Sick employees will not be productive at work, and will only result in spreading the illness to others.
The bottom line
The best remedy for the flu is to stop the spread of illness before it starts. Employers can help reduce the spread of the flu in their office by implementing wellness initiatives that address awareness, encourage flu shots, and remind employees to stay home when they’re sick. Better health practices not only improve wellness, but they help maintain good work productivity