Fighting Cold and Flu Season in the Workplace

  
     
November 16, 2010
Cold and flu season is setting in and the close quarters of the workplace allow coworkers to easily trade germs. Better Business Bureau recommends that business owners take a few simple steps to prevent illnesses from spreading and promote productivity throughout the workplace.

In Canada, flu season usually runs from November to April. And, according to Public Health Agency of Canada, the flu and its complications send about 20,000 Canadians to hospital every year, and about 4,000 Canadians die.

“Fighting germs around the office is about keeping your employees safe and maintaining productivity throughout the peak cold and flu seasons,” says BBB President and CEO Lynda Pasacreta. “Encouraging proper hygiene and a liberal leave policy will help maintain a happier, healthier workplace.”

BBB recommends taking the following steps to protect employees during cold and flu season:

Build up an arsenal to fight germs.
Tissue, hand sanitizer, and products for cleaning work spaces are three basic purchases employers can make for fighting germs around the office. Also consider investing in no-touch trashcans. It’s a small investment that can pay off big time in savings for lost days due to illness.

Encourage people to stay home.
Sick employees may think they’re being dedicated workers when they still come into work, but the truth is they spread germs to other employees and cut down on the overall productivity of the business. Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or severe symptoms. Consider instituting a flexible leave policy—and appropriate technology—that allows employees to work from home if they or their kids are sick.

Promote good hygiene and health around the office.
Remind everyone of the importance of hand washing and covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough. Encourage employees to regularly clean shared equipment such as phones and computers and wipe down common areas. Remind staff that a healthy lifestyle, including taking walks on breaks and eating healthy lunches, can help strengthen immune systems.

Encourage flu shots.
Check B.C.'s Influenza Vaccine Clinic Locator www.health.gov.bc.ca/flu/ and consider reimbursing some or all of the cost for employees to get a shot on their own time at private clinics.

Set a good example.
Now that you’ve asked everyone to wash their hands regularly and stay home if they’re sick, it’s important as the business owner that you follow your own advice. When you’re the boss it can seem like an impossible task to take a sick day, but stay home and keep your germs out of the workplace.

Don’t fall for false claims.
Scammers prey on fear, particularly when it comes to health risks. It’s important to educate your staff, but don’t instill your workplace with fear. Educate employees to be wary of promotions through websites and emails using words such as “scientific breakthrough” or “miracle cure”. Follow health advice only from a trusted source, and don't believe product claims to prevent or cure swine flu. The Federal government website, www.fightflu.ca, can provide you with current information about prevention, treatment and H1N1 statistics. To report a suspicious ad claim regarding a health product you can file a complaint with the Competition Bureau at www.cb-bc.gc.ca.