October is the start of the flu season, which generally runs through March. Steps you take now can go a long way in creating a healthy workplace and keeping your company fully-staffed.
Encourage a healthy workplace
Staying healthy is the first line of defense against the flu.
- Sanitize work surfaces. These include telephones, keyboards, and doors of refrigerators and microwaves. Provide sanitizing wipes for this purpose.
- Provide information on the flu to staff (e.g., importance of getting flu shots, which may be covered by your company’s medical plan).
According to one source, 60% of employees report for work even though they are ill. This presents two major concerns:
- Sick employees are not as productive as those who are well.
- Sick employees can spread disease.
One of the best ways to do this is to pay for sick days. Only California, Connecticut, Washington, the District of Columbia, and a little more than a dozen cities nationwide require employers to pay for a limited number of sick days (find specifics as of May 2013 here). But even if not required, it may be cost effective to pay for sick days to keep unwell employees from bringing infectious diseases into the workplace.
My preference is for small businesses to pay for an unlimited number of sick days (some workers are ill only once every few years), with the understanding that responsible employees won’t abuse this offering (if they do, they won’t remain on the payroll).