Ah yes, it’s that time of year again for those of us in the northern hemisphere. The weather is getting crisp, the leaves are falling off the trees, and soon a soft blanket of snow will cover the countryside. Of course, I’m talking about Flu Season.
The flu season can be challenging for businesses any year, but the 2009-2010 season could prove to be even more difficult with the H1N1 strain steam rolling its way across the country. Since it poses a potential threat to the continuity of your business, I’ve put together a few tips and suggestions to help mitigate the effects in your office and on your business.
A good offence is always the best defence, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, the best way to handle the flu is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
We’re not talking about any new-wave, take a pill or shove-up-your nose drugs. We’re talking about the good old fashioned advice you’ve been hearing for years:
- Eat your fruits and vegetables
- Get plenty of sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Wash your hands
- Get your flu shot (Consult your doctor for what’s right for you)
Just using some common sense and having a positive attitude can help you from getting sick in the first place… which is the ultimate goal.
When it comes to health advice and information, everyone and their brother has an opinion.
Hell, even the media seems to having a difficult time providing accurate data. In an age of “infotainment”, catchy headlines like “Deadly Swine Flu Pandemic” sell more page views than boring, informative titles do.
So, the best place to find information is to visit two sites setup by the federal government to provide information about the flu:
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
- Website: http://www.cdc.gov/
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/CDCEmergency
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CDC
Flu.gov – a site created specifically to address issues on or surrounding the H1N1 and Seasonal Flu:
- Website: http://www.flu.gov
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/flugov
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/H1N1flu
Have a Plan in Place
Because the flu has the capability to negatively affect your business, it’s strongly recommended that you have some type of plan in place early enough to mitigate any negative impacts of a prolonged and difficult flu season.
A good company flu plan should remove much of the guess work and “cowboy” attitude many employees have about working while they’re sick.
Here are a few tips for what your plan should include:
- Office health and hygiene best practices
- How to tell if it’s the flu or just a cold (see the CDC site for tips)
- When workers should excuse themselves from work. (e.g. if you have a fever)
- How long they should be out (e.g. how long after the fever disappears)
In addition to health guidelines, it should also include guidance on:
- Who are your backups and your backup’s backup?
- What are your critical positions and weak points that may need beefing up.
- Update and review of your companies work-from-home policy.
- Positions that may require a temp if work-from-home is not possible.
Once you have a plan in place, make sure it’s communicated to the team.
A company wide email works well, but it’s also good to have a quick team meeting to discuss the issue and the plans in place. That way, you know everyone has heard the information and is aware of your policies.
It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your policy in a public area like the break room or near the bathrooms. This will help keep top-of-mind awareness of the policy and also allow new hires and/or temps to be aware of it as well.
Plan for Extended Outages
Believe it or not, the greatest risk to business the flu season is not infected workers. The greatest risk is from absent workers caring for infected children and other loved ones… sometimes for weeks at a time.
Many schools have adopted rather aggressive strategies to contain the spread of the flu. Sometimes this means requiring children be out of class for at least 7 days from the onset of symptoms.
When a child has the flu or a fever, more often than not there is no other choice then to care for them at home.
Since the flu can pass between members of the same family with relative ease, workers can be faced with 1, 2, and sometimes even 3 weeks of home care.
As a result, it’s a good idea to have a solid Work-From-Home policy in place. Even though their primary duty will be to care of their loved ones while at home, a good employee can still be relatively productive in these situations.
The more challenging issue can be for positions that cannot be done or done easily from home. This may include sales positions, manual labor, and so on. So, in addition to having a solid work-from-home policy, it’s also important to have a temp agency on standby that has qualified people to do these jobs.
How Are You Preparing?
So, now that I’ve provided you with a few points on how to prepare for a possibly prolonged flu season – how is your company dealing with it?… if they are at all.
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