Safeguard your org against absenteeism spike

by 29 Apr 2013

Every winter some 20% of employees contract the flu and three quarters of contagious sufferers still go to work – but once the flu is established in the workplace it rapidly spreads and absenteeism inevitably skyrockets, while productivity slumps. As winter starts this week, every HR professional should be considering whether it’s now time for this year’s round of company flu shots.

Flu season should be a serious concern for businesses because it directly impacts a company’s bottom line. According to research compiled by Kimberly-Clark Professional:

  • It is estimated that the flu impairs a workers performance by between 20 and 40%
  • On average 6.5 working days of productivity are lost per employee annually
  • 10% of all illness related absenteeism is due to the flu

Yet the flu will continue to rage at many offices. Another study found 60% of unwell employees feel compelled to go into work because they have “too much going on” or felt the need to “tough it out”.

Company flu shots are easy to arrange and there are a variety of providers who can administer effective vaccination programs in yourworkplace at a time and date that meets your organisational needs. The cost of vaccinating an employee usually starts at $16.95 and typically a number of registered nurses are deployed in order to minimise queues. Some providers include:

Clean workspaces

In the peak of cold and flu season, many employees may hide at their desks to avoid coughing and sneezing co-workers, yet leading health experts say that could be the very place that makes them sick. Research has found that while 50% of workers clean their inboxes at least once a day, only 15% clean their physical workplace. “Organisations of all sizes can create effective cleaning programs to help reduce the spread of office germs,” Roger McFadden, senior scientist at Staples Advantage said. “However, individuals can also do their part to protect themselves and their co-workers from germs. For example, encourage respiratory etiquette, use tissues, clean-up workspaces and wash hands properly.”

A study by the University of Arizona (UA) found the typical worker's desk had thousands of times more bacteria than an office toilet seat – and desks, phones and keyboards were the prime habitats for the viruses that cause colds and flu. Dr Charles Gerba, microbiologist at UA, said office items were key germ transfer points because people touch them so often, adding that simple office hygiene can reduce infection risks dramatically. “A lot of people eat at their desks all the time so it basically turns into a bacteria cafeteria,” Gerba said, adding that wiping down work areas with disinfectant wipes every day reduces bacteria significantly.


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