by Arthur Piccio . January 17th, 2013
Influenza Virus via cdc.gov
The winter flu season is at its peak, and families and business all over the country are feeling the impact. Your business’s day-to-day transactions can be greatly affected if you or your employees are down with a case of the flu. Here are a few ways you can minimize the impact of the flu season, and other health risks as well:
Your filthy mitts are one of the main methods by which pathogens like our friend the flu virus gets around. Consider that desks on average harbor 400 times more bacteria than your run of the mill public toilet seat.
That finding was released in a study conducted in April 2011 by HealthFocus International and based on a random sample of 2,191 full-time employees who work at a desk.
Other fun facts:
Providing disinfectants and cleaning materials to your employees will always be cheaper than losing productivity from them being sick all the time.
You don’t see too much brass in office settings these days – which might actually be a bad thing. Copper and brass prevent bacteria from reproducing by actually destroying their DNA. Plastic and stainless steel surfaces on the other hand, allow pathogens to live for as long as two weeks.
Brass’s self-disinfecting properties mean you and your employees are far less likely to catch the flu – or any other infection, through filthy door knobs or faucets. If the cost of installing new fixtures prevents even one case of your employees going down for the count, they’re already worth more a lot more than their initial cost.
Brass looks pretty classy in any case.
And by the same, we mean they should stay home when they’re sick too. This one is an absolute no brainer. If you’re down with the flu, don’t be a hero and show everyone up by coming to work anyway. You’re likely making things worse for everyone. Besides, just how much work do you think you or your employees could get done if they were down with the flu?
Every business has different requirements, as far as the physical presence of employees are concerned. During flu outbreaks, obviously your business won’t be the only one affected. Your employees might have children or other family members who can’t be left home alone. In this case, you might want to allow telecommuting, or relax your leave policies.
It also goes without saying you’ll have to work out compensation structures as well.
Of course, not everyone can work from home, and some employees may have skills or knowledge specific to them. Sometimes, you want to keep certain knowledge or responsibility to as few people as possible. But when only one person knows how to perform a process critical to the business – watch out. When they’re gone- you’re screwed.
This is exactly what you don’t want to happen. This is why we have Vice Presidents and why Coke makes sure at least two executives know the secret formula to Coke Classic. You don’t want the very basis of your enterprise be totally dependent on one person not getting the flu. Or anything else.
Same thing goes with your data. Make sure important data can be accessed by as many people as is practical. You don’t want to be panicking over an upcoming deadline because you don’t know where everything you need is.
If you’re running a really small business, it’s probably going to have to be you. But if you feel you’ve got other pressing things to take care of (of course you do), have someone handle all pressing matters related to the flu outbreak.
If you’re big enough to have an HR department, awesome. But if you’re like most of our readers, then make sure someone specific is able to deal with questions about how the flu outbreak will affect leaves, compensation, and anything else. The same set-up can be used for any number of natural disasters and unforeseen events.
This one, you probably should have done this sooner. Unless you’re part of the anti-vaccination camp, there’s pretty much no reason you shouldn’t make vaccination an available option for all the reasons we’ve stated earlier.
For an idea how to to get these sessions started…
The CDC Flu Toolkit for Businesses provides all of these great resources – for free. You can get posters on prevention and all sorts of neat stuff. While it might not seem like much -you’d be surprised how many people don’t know how the flu virus is spread or how its different from the cold, or how different strains keep coming up each season.
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.