Management Referrals
30th September 2016

In a workplace environment flu can spread quickly, impacting both the health of your employees as well as productivity and profitability. Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable as they will be impacted more when multiple employees are out ill.

Sound Advice looked at absentee rates from 6 Sept 2015 – 6 Sept 2016 for 5,961 employees across 65 companies and found that 560 employees (9.4%) were absent due to flu, cough or cold. A quarter of the companies surveyed had an absentee rate of 15% or higher, and one company with 27 employees was particularly affected when 9 employees (33.3%) were absent as a result of flu.

The flu virus is extremely contagious and can spread up to 6 feet though droplets from sneezing or coughing – it can even be spread through talking. The flu virus can spread for a day before you start showing any symptoms and up to seven days after becoming ill.

Dr Martin Strudley is with Occupational Medicals Enterprise, part of the ELAS Group. He says: “Employers who encourage their workforce to take steps to improve their health will see the benefits, particularly this time of year. Small changes such as eating healthy food, drinking plenty of water, exercising and getting enough rest all make a big difference when it comes to overall health. Research has shown that companies who embrace employee wellbeing programmes are likely to see reduced absenteeism throughout the year not just during flu season.”

The best way to reduce exposure to flu in your workplace is to use basic hygiene procedures and avoid contact with ill people. We’ve put together our top tips for a healthy workplace:

  • Promote good hand hygiene – hands should be washed regularly and always after coughing or sneezing. Put signs up around the workplace if needed to reinforce the message
  • Stay away if sick – consider flexible working options allowing employees to work from home
  • Encourage vaccination – offer employees flu vaccines in the workplace or give them time to visit a flu clinic
  • Wipe down desks and frequently touched surfaces e.g. phones, computers, door handles, water fountain handles.
  • Don’t share – sharing anything can increase the spread of germs and increase the risk of getting ill. Try not to use your co-worker’s phone, desk, computer or other equipment – if you have to, then make sure they’ve been wiped down first

Dr Strudley continues: “As well as these general tips, individuals should take extra steps themselves to avoid catching the flu. Flu is an airborne virus so it’s important to always cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and cough/sneeze into your upper sleeve. Avoid touching your face as much as possible and, of course, the number one tip is to stay home if you are ill.”

All at risk groups are eligible to receive free flu jabs from the National Health Service. The Department of Health runs an annual campaign to encourage as many of these people as possible to have a jab. Our campaign helps you complement this programme by offering vaccinations to people throughout the workplace, contact Sound Advice on 0845 862 8040 to find out where we are holding a flu clinic near you.


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