Last year’s record-breaking flu season was the first to be classified as “high severity” across all age groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to serious health concerns, flu illnesses can also impact business productivity as employees take time off from work to rest and recover.

As this flu season begins, businesses should have strategies in place to best protect employees and company operations from the flu and its impact in the workplace. Caroline Hernandez, a senior human resource specialist with Insperity, offers tips to help business leaders prepare.

Educate employees before an outbreak

Some individuals may not understand the potential dangers and complications the flu may bring, including how infectious it can be or how to best avoid it. Managers should consider educating employees about the upcoming flu season through employee email blasts, posters in break rooms or lunch-and-learn meetings. These communications can serve as an efficient and easy way for leadership to share helpful tips with staff, particularly around workplace hygiene.

Offer vaccinations at the office

While some workers may opt out of vaccinations for health or personal reasons, many simply don’t make time to go to their doctor, clinic or local pharmacy. Employers may consider partnering with a local health care provider to offer flu shots onsite, making the shots more accessible and possibly decreasing the chances of a flu outbreak at the office. However, it is important to remember that regulations on mandated flu vaccinations vary from state to state. It is best to check local and state regulations before instituting or updating company policies.

Stock up on flu-fighting supplies

Managers should work with staff to ensure the workplace is well stocked with items for preventative care, including hands-free soap dispensers, sanitizing gels, facial tissues and surface disinfectants. These items should be easily accessible to all employees to ensure maximum effectiveness. By promoting good health habits, companies may be able to help keep the spread of germs to a minimum and limit illness in the office. 

Prepare for the worst

Even in the most prepared workplaces, the flu may still take its toll on employees. To prepare for the worst, consider implementing a flu action plan or an emergency communications plan in case widespread illness strikes. These plans might include a project tracker to help employees prioritize key tasks while filling in for colleagues, or arrangements for staggered schedules so customer service needs do not suffer if employees are out sick.

Encourage employees to use sick time when needed

When it comes to illness, prevention is key. That means employees should be encouraged to stay home if they believe they are coming down with the flu or any other contagious illness. At the same time, employers should also encourage those who are sick to rest and recover as much as possible, taking sick leave as needed.