‘Tis the Season for Colds & Flu…

We all know that employee…the one who comes to work wheezing, sneezing, sniffling, and coughing thus re-gifting his germs to his coworkers.

Employees, especially those in tight quarters, end up with a seemingly never-ending cycle of passing colds and flu from one person to the other. Companies have options to help contain the spreading of germs in the workplace.

  1. Provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes so that employees can wipe down commonly used equipment and sanitize their hands after shaking hands, touching doorknobs, etc.
  2. Remind employees about your sick and/or vacation leave benefits and encourage them to stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
  3. If a sick employee shows up to work, send him home. While it is recommended you apply your attendance policy consistently, consider making an exception to it when someone shows up to work really sick and you have to send him home. (Fair Labor Standards Act caution: While the company is not obligated to pay a non-exempt employee when they perform no work, it will likely have to pay the exempt employee for the day.  Information about the rules for paying exempt employees on a salaried basis is available on the Department of Labor’s fact sheet on the topic.)
  4. Consider offering flu shots at work for employees. This makes it convenient for employees to take that preventive step to be vaccinated.
  5. If you can’t bring flu shots on site, most health insurance providers provide flu shots at no charge for employees who are covered on their plans. Additionally, some insurers will provide an incentive to the individual who gets his flu shot. Check with your insurer to find out what coverage they provide to employees for flu shots.
  6. While checking with your insurer for flu shots, you may also want to find out if they cover pneumonia vaccines at a reduced rate for covered employees. For older employees (over age 65), dependent children under age 5, and individuals with certain risk factors, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a pneumonia vaccine.
  7. Provide your employees with tips on how to minimize their exposure to flu, colds, etc. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), offers these tips for employees to follow:

Get vaccinated. This is a key component of preventing the spread of flu.  It’s also important for employees to understand that they need to receive a flu shot annually.  Each year, different strains of the flu are analyzed to determine which will likely be prevalent for that season and vaccines are developed to combat those specific flus.

Stay home if you are sick.  Spreading your cold or flu to co-workers does not reflect good teamwork.  If you have a fever and/or respiratory symptoms, it’s recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever ends.

Wash your hands. Frequently washing your hands or using hand sanitizer – especially after touching common items such as door knobs, light switches, etc. – will help prevent you from becoming ill.  When washing your hands, rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds and then rinse and dry them completely.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Colds and flus love warm, moist environments and become easily transmitted from hands to your entire body by rubbing your eyes and/or touching your lips or nose.

Cover up. If you have to cough of sneeze, do so into a tissue or into the crook of your arm so that you don’t spread germs.

Clean your hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Because molecules of mucus may be on your hands, wash them or use hand sanitizer before you touch anything else so that you don’t spread germs to coworkers.

Keep commonly touched surfaces clean. Did you know your desk has more germs than a toilet seat? Use disinfecting wipes to sanitize telephones, computers, desks, etc.

Avoid using co-workers phone, desk, computer, etc. Sometimes, using a co-worker’s work station is unavoidable.  To minimize your exposure to germs, disinfect the desk, computer (especially the keyboard and mouse), telephone, etc.

Stay healthy. Eat healthfully and maintain a regimen of exercise. This will help you fight off exposure to colds and/or flu.

This year, give your employees the gift of health by providing them with the tools they need to be cold and flu free.


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