Flu – The costly productivity killer

The flu is a miserable experience for anybody unfortunate enough to be struck down by it. And the pain of the flu can sap the life out of your business too.

The Flu is a balance sheet vandal

The flu has a massive economic impact on Australian and New Zealand businesses every year. In New Zealand, research found the average annual cost of influenza-related workplace absence is $837 per employee. In Australia in 2017, the flu was estimated to have cost businesses approximately $114.6 million due to workforce illness alone. These figures are not abstract constructions. They are the accumulation of the very real losses of businesses just like yours.

On average, the flu affects 10-20% of the population every year. The average flu-affected employee takes between three and five days off work. And the seasonal nature of flu concentrates most of these absences into a relative short period, especially if employees catch the flu from each other. Most of us have had the experience of working somewhere when, in the space of a couple of weeks, the team members ‘drop like flies’ as illness circulates. This high and concentrated incidence, and long duration of impact per affected person, can decimate your workforce, throw business into chaos, and leave productivity (and profits) in a hole.

The direct cost of flu to your business arises from two main issues. The cost of ill people staying away from work (absenteeism). And the cost of ill people remaining at work and under-performing (presenteeism).

Employees out of action

The costs of absenteeism perhaps come more easily to mind. When a flu-affected employee is absent from work, all of their potential productivity is lost for the days they are absent. If you can’t or don’t fill their position, the potential productivity during that period is lost to the business forever.

If you do fill the absent employee’s position temporarily, the business is potentially pays for their role twice. Once for paid sick leave (if applicable), and again for the temporary employee (who often comes at a higher price).

Whether or not you temporarily fill their position, your business may face consequences such as lost leads or business opportunities, or costly omissions or errors made by those trying to press on without the absent employee. Especially if their role is business-critical.

For businesses where continuity of contact in client/customer relationships really matters, employee absence can impact on business acquisition and retention, and client/customer satisfaction and confidence.

Employees under-performing

The cost of presenteeism is perhaps less obvious at first glance, but can be just as destructive and expensive. When a flu-affected employee chooses to ‘soldier on’ and keep working, they pose a double threat to your business. First, an unwell employee is an under-performing employee. Employees trying to push on through illness are less productive, and also more inclined to make costly mistakes. Second, an unwell employee who comes to work is a beacon of infection risk – with the potential to infect their colleagues and compound the problem even further.

The wider risks

The impacts of the flu on your business also expand far beyond the immediate financial hits. For example, we all know the ‘fuzzy brained’ feeling that comes with a head full of flu. We also know the fatigue, the sleep deprivation from sniffly nights, and the physical shortcuts we take when impaired by an aching body. These familiar effects of the flu can be an occupational health and safety disaster waiting to happen. Quite aside from the infection risk they pose, employees impaired by illness pose another health and safety risk to themselves and others – through an increased risk of errors and accidents.

Furthermore, for businesses with a client-facing or customer-facing component (especially where those clients/customers are particularly vulnerable to flu), there is a significant reputational risk (and indeed liability risk) in putting visibly ill staff in contact with clients/customers. Especially, but not only, if the client/customer gets ill as a result. Indeed, even sending an unwell person to a meeting with a stakeholder or business contact can harm your business’s reputation.

Vaccination is cost-effective

Vaccination is a cost-effective option for minimising the costs of flu to businesses, and can deliver substantial returns on investment. This is true across a wide range of business sizes and types, and across diverse industries. Each vaccinated employee is not only 59% less likely to get sick if exposed to the flu, they are also less likely to pass on the illness to others. This can slash the rate of illness in a workplace even further.

A study analysing the impact of employer-provider flu vaccination programs found cost savings across a wide range of business sizes and types, and across diverse industries. Savings varied depending on how many people in the wider population caught the flu that year. In a year when 20% of the population got sick – an employer-provided vaccination program was estimated to save between $82 and $882 per employee (US dollars). In a year with a particularly bad flu season (30% of the population got sick) – an employer-provided vaccination program was estimated to save between $132 and $1273 per employee (US dollars).

Protect your productivity

Flu vaccination is a smart business investment that can protect your business from the costs of flu-related absenteeism, presenteeism, errors, safety risks, lost business and reputational harm. It is an investment that can deliver large returns for your bottom line, reputation and performance. Now is the perfect time to book your workplace flu vaccination program with us.

For more information about our Flu Vaccination Programs call us on

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New Zealand : 0800 222 949

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