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Flu Season Hits US: Seven Steps You Can Take to Prepare Your Business and Employees

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Flu Season Hits US: Seven Steps You Can Take to Prepare Your Business and Employees

By Stephen Morris, SBA Official
Published: January 10, 2013 Updated: January 10, 2013

The 2012-2013 flu season arrived earlier than usual. As the nation braces for increased flu activity, now is the time to prepare yourself, your business, and your employees. Not only is prevention important for physical health, it may impact your bottom line if your staff are out sick. Here are some tips to help you avoid illness and maintain business continuity.Flu

1. Identify a Workplace Coordinator -This person would be the single point of contact for all issues relating to a flu outbreak and be responsible for reaching out to community health providers and implementing protocols for dealing with ill employees - in advance of any outbreak or impact on the business.

2. Examine Policies for Leave, Telework and Employee Compensation - Obviously this will vary by business, but the emphasis here is on refreshing yourself and your employees about what your company's health care plans cover in the event of sick leave as a result of the flu. You should also re-evaluate leave policies to ensure a flexible non-punitive plan that allows for impacted individuals to stay at home. Employees may also need to stay at home to care for sick children or telework in the event of school closures - so be prepared for this by implementing appropriate teleworking infrastructures in advance.

3. Post signs or host a flu vaccination clinic for employees – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides free posters and stock content for your employee newsletter that will remind staff about flu vaccinations and other safety precautions. The CDC also recommends holding a flu vaccination clinic for your employees, among other strategies, for ensuring your employees have access to the seasonal flu vaccine. The CDC Flu Toolkit for Businesses provides all of these great resources.

4. Identify Essential Employees, Essential Business Functions, and Other Critical Inputs - Make plans to maintain communication and ensure clear work direction with critical personnel and vendors (and even customers) in the event that the supply chain is broken or other unpredictable disruptions occur.

5. Share your Flu and other Pandemic Plans with Employees and Clearly Communicate Expectations - Consider posting a bi-lingual version of your preparedness plan, leave information, health tips, and other flu awareness resources across all your work locations and online if you operate an Intranet.

6. Prepare Business Continuity Plans - Absenteeism or other work place changes need to be addressed early on so you can maintain business operations. Get tips on common sense measures your business can take from SBA.gov/Prepare.

7. Establish an Emergency Communication Plan - Hopefully your business already has some form of emergency communication plan. If not, document your key business contacts (with back-ups), the chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.

Additional Resources

Flu.gov for Businesses
CDC Flu Website
CDC Flu Toolkit for Businesses

About the Author:

Stephen Morris

SBA Official

Stephen Morris is online media coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration where he manages digital outreach to the small business community.

Comments:

Yea, these multinational organizations spread the contagious virus into the atmosphere to make people ill. Then they introduce some costly vaccinations for them. Can't believe we humans can go too low for money.
Great post! Flu adversely affects the business activity and it is necessary to take steps to ensure an infection free atmosphere in office. The tips are really good.
The flu has been bad this year for sure. As a pest control services company in Connecticut during the winter months we encourage our employees to dress appropriately when traveling from customer to customer and to cover their ears when wearing a hat. So often times employees don't dress accordingly in the colder climates. Hand sanitizing is another area we focus on. All employees have bottles of hand sanitizers in their vehicles particularly those who are meeting with clients face to face to treat their home or business. We also encourage employees to stay home if they feel ill and to not come back to work too early. Take the needed time to recover from being ill. Proper diet and rest also is something we push.
I personally thing flu shots are waste of money. Here in UK they've spend like 300m last year on flu vaccines and only got 10000 people vaccinated, for some reason they don't want to do it. Also I during the winter season its hard to avoid colds and calling in sick, that's how it is, flu shots wont change much.
Great Article, I think it's very important for businesses to encourage employees to STAY HOME when they contract the Flu, it only makes it worse for the employer and employee's if the flu is brought to the office. We also have hand sanitizer place around the office and encourage everyone to use it. Thanks again for the post I think it's very important to promote a healthy office.
Great article, i especially agree with #2, I was at work yesterday and we had about 14 people come in to work with the flu. Thank God i didn't contract anything. Also, I went out later that night to a nightclub in NYC & noticed a lot of people coughing and sneezing. I honestly think people are doing the wrong thing by going out when they have the flu, same goes to employers that don't allow their employees to take a few days off! This should be one of those necessities. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
As a small business owner, I know how badly flu season can hit a business' bottom line. Nevertheless, I think it is imperative that you give your employees time to recover from the flu BEFORE they come back to work and risk infecting their colleagues. Sometimes we are so anxious to have our key employees back, we become penny-wise and pound-foolish. One of my favorite strategies is to tell my employees to work like they were going on vacation the next day. They attend to the things that require their particular expertise/input and keep a running list of things that someone else might be able to do if that employee is on vacation (or has the flu) for a few days. If we all operate in pre-vacation mode, we stay focused on what's most important and develop contingencies in case we can't be there.
It's about contagion, too. We've all had "Kennel Cough" running around the office, the Flu is worse, it causes absenteeism and can be dangerous. Keep the workplace disinfected. You don't have to be a germaphobe, but step it up a bit during Flu Season. Have your cleaning crew use Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol (99% is better than 70%) for wiping hard surfaces instead of their normal cleaning agents. Give Employees employees Handi-Wipes with Benzalkonium Chloride to wipe their Phone, keyboard and mouse at lunch and end of day. The CDC has recommended these easy steps to avoid the spread of the Flu  and kill the virus that cause Influenza... they're easy to follow and help keep your business staffed and running as usual.   This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Yea, these multinational organizations spread the contagious virus into the atmosphere to make people ill. Then they introduce some costly vaccinations for them. Can't believe we humans can go too low for money.
In my view the PLI or the performance linked incentive would also entice the employees to perform better. You need to monitor on how much an effort is getting the effective response. The Flu approach was welcoming one and you delineated a nice glossary of discussion regarding that.

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