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Risk in Context

5 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Influenza Season

Posted by Renata Elias October 01, 2018

The beginning of October marks the start of the annual influenza season, which can continue into May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza can be dangerous for people and have a financial impact on businesses. The CDC Foundation estimates that 5% to 20% of people in the United States fall sick with influenza every year, with tens of thousands needing hospitalization and thousands dying. This costs around $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses plus $16.3 billion in lost earnings, underlining the importance for organizations to take the necessary precautions to protect their employees, their business, and their reputation.

Organizations should consider taking these five actions to protect their employees and business.

Urge Your Employees to Get Vaccinated

The CDC urges vaccination by the end of October. Businesses can host flu clinics on site, giving their employees the opportunity to get vaccinated without leaving the office. You could also provide vouchers for employees to get vaccinated at clinics or other health providers. Since employees might miss work to take care of sick relatives, consider encouraging vaccination of family members. This includes children, who the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Step Up Hygiene and Awareness Efforts

Implementing additional cleaning protocols, especially to frequently-touched objects and surfaces, can help slow the spread of a highly contagious disease and avoid more workers getting sick. Stress the importance of frequent handwashing and other initiatives workers can take to protect themselves and others.

Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home

Health professionals encourage anyone with flu-like symptoms to stay home for at least 24 hours after they are fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Urge employees to follow this advice and have a system in place for those who suspect they might be contagious to work from home.

Establish Procedures for Interacting with Sick Customers

Your frontline workers should know how to deal with customers with clear symptoms and whether these clients should be asked to return at a later date to minimize the risk of spreading infection. Make sure these procedures are consistent across the company and followed throughout the influenza season.

Be Prepared

US employees miss around 17 million workdays every year due to influenza, costing an estimated $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity. Have a business continuity plan in place, which, among other things, looks at how your company is going to operate if a high percentage of your workforce is sick. You might also consider stocking up on certain supplies, like tissues, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.

Sick employees can adversely affect your productivity and cost your business money. But it could be much worse if your reputation takes a hit because of an inadequate prevention plan. Be proactive, rather than reactive, and keep your employees, and customers, informed of the steps you’re taking to protect them and the company.

Related to:  Pandemic

Renata Elias

Consultant, Marsh Risk Consulting Strategic Risk Practice