Top 3 ways to stop the flu striking down your workforce

The flu season is inevitable. But watching your workers fall prey to it one-by-one doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 ways to prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace, and reduce its impact on your business.

The flu season is inevitable. But watching your workers fall prey to it one-by-one doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 ways to prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace, and reduce its impact on your business.

1. Vaccinate

Vaccination remains the single most effective way to prevent the flu. Despite this, vaccination rates in the general community remain low for a variety of reasons. This means, without a proactive approach, vaccination rates among your employees are likely to be low too. The good news is, this means a proactive approach can protect your people and give you a competitive advantage at the same time.

A workplace vaccination program makes it easy for your employees to access the best available flu prevention, and build your business’s collective defences. Providing vaccination in the workplace overcomes some of the most common barriers to vaccination including cost, inconvenience, and lack of a cue or reminder to get vaccinated. For example, an Australian study found that people were seven times more likely to get vaccinated when the relevant vaccine was made available to them free of charge. The information provided during a workplace flu vaccination program can also overcome other common barriers, such as people thinking they are not at risk, that vaccines don’t work, or that flu is not a serious condition.

2. Provide a healthy environment

You can help to prevent the spread of flu by setting up your workplace in a way that impairs its ability to spread. The flu can spread both in the air, and on surfaces. The flu virus can remain viable in the air for several hours (for example after a person coughs or sneezes). And can remain viable on a surface for up to 48 hours. If a person breathes in flu virus from the air, or touches their face after touching a contaminated surface, they can be infected.

Touching shared objects and surfaces is a common way for flu to spread. Therefore, it is vital to set up your workplace in a way which reduces the chance of the virus spreading. Some examples of how to achieve this include:

a. Provide easy access to tissues, and no-touch bins for disposing of them.

b. Provide hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes.

c. Routinely clean (and ideally disinfectant) surfaces frequently touched by more than one person (e.g. phones, keyboards, photocopiers, microwave buttons, door knobs, coffee machines etc).

d. Provide hygienic hand-drying options (e.g. electric hand dryers), as opposed to fabric towels.

e. Ensure adequate supplies of soap at all sinks.

f. Use hygienic methods for distributing shared food (e.g. tongs, servers).

g. Use gloves when handling shared food.

h. Assign desks to prevent the risk of transmission through ‘hot-desking’.

 

3. Promote healthy behaviour

A study of a working office found that if a single employee attends work while sick, as many as 50% of commonly-touched surfaces may be contaminated within four hours of them arriving at work. A contamination level this high means other employees face a 40-90% chance of being infected. All as the result of one sick person coming to work!

You can also help prevent the spread of flu by promoting a workplace culture that supports and normalises healthy behaviours and attitudes towards flu prevention. Some ways to achieve this include:

a. Support and encourage people to go home/stay home from work if they are sick, and ensure this decision is affirmed and not penalised.

b. Support people to work from home if they are sick, are living with somebody who is sick, or have otherwise been in close contact with somebody who is sick.

c. Promote and normalise ways of working that reduce close contact when somebody is sick, and during flu season (e.g. teleconferencing or videoconferencing).

d. Normalise avoiding close contact (including handshakes) during flu season and/or when a person is sick.

e. Encourage visitors (and clients/customers – if applicable and appropriate) to stay away from your workplace if they are sick, and provide alternative ways for them to engage with the service (e.g. via phone).

f. Provide information about, and promote, positive hygiene behaviours (e.g. hand-washing, surface disinfection, avoiding touching one’s nose/eyes/mouth, and ‘sleeve sneezing/coughing’).

Simple measures like those above can dramatically reduce the spread of flu. For example, a study found that a ‘Healthy Workplace Intervention’ that supplied employees with free tissues, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitiser, alongside education about washing their hands before eating lunch and after large meetings, resulted in an 80% reduction the risk of catching the flu at work. Vaccination is better still, as it prevents infection not only at work, but everywhere your employees go.

The flu prevention trifecta

A combination of vaccination, a healthy environment and healthy behaviours is the trifecta of flu prevention in any workplace. Only by combining all these measures can you achieve the best possible protection from flu and its impacts. Our flu prevention program achieves outstanding levels of employee participation, to maximise the benefits to your business. Contact us to book today.

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