Offer the shot
Provide employees with an on-site flu shot clinic or cover the cost of obtaining the shot outside of the office.
Employers should discuss the importance of the getting the flu shot with their staff, especially since many employees may feel that since they’re young or healthy, they don’t need it. Not only does the flu shot help protect the person getting the shot, it also protects the entire staff—particularly those who may not be able to get the shot due to allergies or illness.
The good news is that many employers have embraced the importance of flu shots. Curran estimates that 85% of large organizations now offer either on-site flu clinics or provide coverage to pay for off-site shots. The recent pandemic threats, such as last year’s H1N1 scare, and the increased availability of flu shots have made employers more aware and able to implement such initiatives.
Tell employees to stay home
Permit—and encourage—employees to stay home if they’re sick. All too often, employees come into work when they’re not well because they’re worried about using up sick days or vacation days, or because they’re worried about the repercussions of taking time off.
“Senior management sets the example, the vision and assigns responsibility for carrying out a ‘culture of health’ philosophy,” says Curran. “If leaders and managers stay home when they are ill, employees will be more comfortable doing the same. If they come to work and put in long hours when ill, employees will have the impression that this is what is expected of all employees.” Patricia Curran, a principal in the national clinical practice of Buck Consultan
If an employee absolutely must work while sick, allow him or her to telecommute, so that the illness is not spread to other employees in the workplace.
Educate and communicate
Send the message that the company is committed to employees’ health and wellbeing, says Curran, and ensure employees know how to prevent themselves from catching the flu. Provide tips and suggestions, such as reminding employees to cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing, to wash their hands with soap and water, and to avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths since germs are easily spread this way. And above all, emphasize the company’s commitment to wellness.
“To truly create a culture of health that will drive sustainable results, employers must deliver a comprehensive set of programs that focus on both the individual and the organization,” says Curran.
“By encouraging employees to be responsible for cold and flu prevention, we begin to set the expectation of responsible behaviour around other health issues. If employers cannot influence the behaviour of employees to prevent the spread of colds and flu, how can we expect them to influence how employees control their chronic conditions?”