Be Proactive: Promote Healthy Habits in the Workplace

The dreadful cold and flu season is here once again. This time of year sparks new challenges for employers attempting to avoid absenteeism and lower productivity levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year due to the seasonal flu. It cost employers more than $10 billion in hospital costs and outpatient care and $76.7 million in absenteeism-related costs and other indirect expenses every year.


Symptoms of Flu

The Flu is easily spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or even a small nasal drip. It is difficult to predict who will end up sick with the flu or when it might occur, however the symptoms are detectable. Symptoms including fever, chills, sore throat, coughing, headache, running nose, tiredness and body aches. In some cases diarrhea, vomiting and other neurological problems have also been reported. Many people recover from the flu any where from just a few days to a couple of weeks; however there are some individuals that might develop further complications such as pneumonia, sinus or ear infections which can sometimes become life-threatening.

Proactive Workplace Solutions

  • Display notices within the office to promote proactive cold and flu prevention. The CDC has some great posters on cough etiquette techniques to limit the spread of germs Cover your cough posters.  Other great reminders include washing hands frequently, routinely cleaning and disinfecting work stations and common areas and avoid sharing food or utensils.
  •  Provide hand sanitizer in common areas of the workplace, including near entrances and exists of the office. Sanitizer can be a useful alternative when washing hands may not be a convenient option.
  • Inform employees about the benefits of getting a seasonal flu vaccine. Provide information on local clinics and allow individuals some time off to get vaccinated or offer on site flu shots if possible.
  • Promote personal hygiene by having tissues and disinfectants available for use, no-touch trash cans and disposable towels to clean work surfaces.
  •  Ensure heating and ventilation systems are properly maintained and work at optimal levels to allow circulation of fresh air within the workplace.
  •  Encourage employees who have flu-like symptoms to take time off of work until they are better, to reduce spreading the virus to other employees.
  •  Establish communication protocols to identify and communicate when an employee will be out of the office and their availability to return to work.
  •  Encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle by providing access to health related resources. View relevant health related tools and resources at
  •  Incorporate a contingency plan that includes workplace solutions in case of an unexpected surge in absenteeism.
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