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In what’s being called the worst flu season in a decade, sick employees are becoming a common occurrence in the workplace. While larger firms face the same risks, sick employees can decimate a small business.
The Center of Disease Control estimates that on average, flu outbreaks cost American employers $10.4 billion in hospitalization and doctors visits. This number does not factor in lost productivity costs and missed work days. The NY Daily News reported that the number of cases throughout New York has reached more than 15,000, up from 4,400 reported cases for the entire flu season last year.
The CDC recommends sending home sick employees, rather than forcing them to come into the office where they’ll spread germs and sickness to other employees. Employees should not be afraid or penalized for calling out.
“Managers need to realize these people cannot come to work,” says Dr. Vicki Bralow. Allow sick workers to work from home, if they can work at all.
Other ways small businesses can minimize risks is by taking preventative measures such as promoting vaccination in the office, covering mouths when coughing, and not sharing items such as pens or phones with those who are sick. Anti-bacterial gel should be distributed if possible so employees can wash their hands.
To demonstrate how serious this flu season is, Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston.
“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” he said in a news release. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern …If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.”
Common sense advice and simple steps can help your office from turning into the next causality of flu season.