When employees come into work with cold or flu germs riding shotgun, one person’s virus suddenly becomes everyone’s problem. Nobody wants to take a sick day. More often than not, that means lost wages, and many workers assume they will appear weak-willed or unreliable just for putting their health first. Preventing viral illnesses from spreading before they can gain even a small foothold is everyone’s job.

Improve Flu Shot Availability

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) repeatedly cites vaccination as the most indispensable weapon against spreading influenza. The specific viruses contained by the vaccine cause the body to develop protective antibodies that defend against what yearly research predicts will be the most widespread influenza strains.

If you can make flu shots as readily available as possible to employees via on-site vaccinations arranged through a local hospital or clinic before the end of October, you improve the chances of keeping debilitating and contagious flu bugs from spreading throughout your staff. At the very least, give some thought to reimbursing all or part of your workers’ costs of getting vaccinated on their own time. Keep in mind, even getting a shot later in the season can still prove massively beneficial.

Encourage Employees to Stay Home

Be an example to your workers that no one needs to be a hero during the flu season. True leaders will remember that employees who see them soldiering onward through a bug will believe a bar has been set for “toughing it out.” Any flu-ridden employee with a fever should spend at least 24 hours at home after the fever breaks without medication.

If your company can logistically swing it, the option of flexible leave allowing some tasks to be done at home if the flu is going around may motivate employees to properly recuperate without sending a spreadable virus on a tour of your workforce that leaves everyone on the shelf. However, the boss needs to accept taking a conscientious day off as readily as a temp or intern.

Champion Employee Wellness

The best preparations for cold and flu season don’t start when summer gives way to fall. Work-related stress constantly sends employees spiraling into such unhealthy habits as calorie-heavy snacking, smoking, alcohol abuse and drinking far too much caffeine. The toll these lifestyle choices take on a human body stacks up quickly and can leave workers constantly more susceptible to illness.

Consider weaving healthier snack and beverage options into vending machines. Chat with nearby restaurants about delivering nutritionally balanced meals to your staff once a week or so. Make sure your office regularly cleans its air filters and gets air conditioning repair done so that stale air and dust buildup doesn’t slowly break down immune systems.

Companies with larger campuses might consider installing walking paths or reasonable exercise areas where employees can torch their stress while getting the blood pumping and generating valuable mood-enhancing endorphins. A body that stays fit to fight infection and win never has to “get ready” for the season of sniffles.

One last tip: Caring costs nothing. When looking after your workers does incur a cost, the investment almost always pays off in the long run. Show some genuine concern when your people do fall ill. Call, email or text to genuinely ask how they are doing without broaching the subject of when they will be back on their feet.

Ask if any lingering office responsibilities might need tending while they are down and out. Some bosses will even have a surprise pizza delivered with a kind message. Your kindness may not come with potent medicinal upsides, but it will show your employees that everyone who works for you is much more than just a name on the payroll.

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