Work and the Flu – What Should You Do?
This is the final installment of a three-part series highlighting the theme of community immunity this flu season. Because preventing the spread of flu extends to the office and your community at large.
After weeks of widespread activity, it looks like we’re finally seeing a light at the end of the influenza tunnel. The CDC now says the flu season has peaked for the year. But it’s still not time to sound the all clear. Flu activity remains high in 21 states, with 15 states reporting moderate levels of the flu.
So, even though it looks like the worst is over, it’s not time to let your guard down, especially for the nation’s businesses. Sick employees remain a major concern this time of year.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu can be a significant burden for businesses. In a typical year, in between employee sick days and lost productivity, the estimated cost of the flu is a staggering $7 billion.
Maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims. It will also positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity. 
You can also take precautions to avoid getting infected as you make your way to the office. For starters, don’t be a contagious commuter. If you use public transportation, frequently-touched surfaces can harbor the flu virus, like handrails, grab handles and straps. After touching these areas, avoid touching your face, eyes, or nose to prevent infection. For car commuters, the gas station is laden with risks. The buttons on the ATM machine and gas pump handles are particularly germy. So play it safe and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after you touch any contaminated objects.
Once you’ve dodged the influenza virus on the way to the office, make sure to keep up the good work at the workplace. Personal steps you can take include disinfecting commonly shared areas –for example, if you share a desk, a tablet or a phone, wipe them down with sanitizer. If you shake hands with someone, wash your hands immediately afterwards. And if a co-worker in your office is coughing or sneezing, steer clear! Better yet, encourage your fellow employee to take a sick day to prevent spreading the illness to others.
Employers can also do their part to foster a healthy workplace by providing employees with hand sanitizer and tissues, and having the cleaning crews regularly wipe down commonly shared surfaces.
BUT – as mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series — do your office a favor this flu season – if you think you’re getting sick, stay at home!
Of course, the best way to be a team player this flu season is to get the flu shot – it’s the single, most effective way to avoid getting sick. Families Fighting Flu wants to remind the public that the flu is a serious illness, and if the sobering news headlines spotlighting the extent of influenza-related deaths this season were not enough to make you take precautions, you’ll want to check out the video below for more reasons on why it’s critical to get vaccinated, even this late in the season.
A few fast flu facts….
Did you know that influenza virus can remain on surfaces for up to 48 hours? And did you know that people can remain infectious for 5 to 7 days after getting sick? In fact, you can spread the flu virus 1 day before you even start to feel sick.
So, if you do get the flu, take one for the team and do the right thing by staying home until at least 24-hours after your fever ends. To learn more about flu and how to protect yourself and your co-workers, visit www.familiesfightingflu.org.
Make sure to check out our other tips for flu season like our Flu Prevention-Keep Your Family Safe At Home This Flu Season article.