Limit the cost to employees and business by ensuring your workplace is not a breeding ground for the flu
The influenza virus has cast a wide geographic net this year and sickened more Americans than any other year on record. The impact on employers and employees is staggering, and unfortunately, is only expected to grow. With the Centers for Disease Control reporting that a typical flu season costs an estimated $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity, the experts at ServiceMaster Clean, one of the leading janitorial and healthcare cleaning providers in the nation, say the workplace is often “ground zero” for contamination and urges employers to make flu fighting a priority.
“The workplace can be a hotbed for influenza germs. Common areas, break rooms, restrooms, conference rooms, elevator buttons and shared tools can be contaminated with the flu virus. If one person is infected, then they can potentially put the rest of their workplace at risk, even through indirect contact,” explains Steve Zimmerman, director of healthcare services for ServiceMaster Clean.
Zimmerman noted there are some simple but highly effective things employers can do to keep contamination to a minimum and help protect the health of their employees:
- Encourage employees to frequently wash their hands with disinfecting soap. Also provide plenty of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wipe down “high touch areas” with disinfecting wipes at least once a day. High-touch areas would include break room surfaces, conference room tables and chairs, doorknobs, restroom fixtures, light switches and tools that are used by multiple people. If you have a professional cleaning crew on site, you can ask them to do this. Zimmerman stresses that proper cleaning is an essential part of any infection control strategy. “The risk of infections spreading through touch points is very likely, which is why our trained experts clean to reduce contamination opportunities in the workplace.”
- Let employees know that they should stay home if they have flu-like symptoms; otherwise they put the health of the entire team at risk. Managers, watch for signs that an employee isn’t feeling well, and don’t be afraid to ask them to go home for the day if needed.
- Avoid unnecessary contact with others. Personal space is important during flu season. Limit handshakes and avoid close conversations. Consider hosting conference calls or web presentations, rather than in-person meetings whenever possible.
- Make sure everyone has flu-fighting supplies at their desk: tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes, at a minimum.
- Offer flu vaccinations onsite or offer to pay for employees to get them through a local provider. The CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone. The vaccination can reduce the severity of the illness even if someone is already exhibiting symptoms.
The bottom line, says Zimmerman, is employers can’t afford to be passive when it comes to fighting the flu. “We owe it to our employees to create a work environment that’s as safe and healthy as possible. With this year’s flu outbreak, having a rigorous cleaning protocol and a clear flu-fighting strategy should be top action items for every business leader.”