To help combat a statewide outbreak of the flu, FastMed Urgent Care, the largest urgent care organization in North Carolina, issued the FastMed Workplace Flu Survival Guide for employers and employees to reduce the rate of flu cases. FastMed calls it a health and economic imperative, as each year the flu can cost the U.S. economy up to $87 billion in lost work time and productivity.
“At FastMed clinics throughout North Carolina, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of flu cases,” says Jason A. Williams MPAS, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Eastern Region and founder of FastMed. “Because the workplace is such a highly contagious environment for spreading the flu, we are focusing on employers and employees and supporting them with The FastMed Workplace Flu Survival guide to help lower the spread of flu.” Williams also explained that flu season typically peaks during January and February but can last as late as May, so employers will need to manage their flu prevention programs for months.
The FastMed Workplace Flu Survival Guide is based on federal government guidance and FastMed’s own extensive experience providing frontline health care to patients in communities and workplaces throughout Arizona. The guide includes the following tips:
Know the symptoms in your employees
Know what you are looking for as a manager or as an employee. Symptoms often include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
Promote employee vaccinations
The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the best way to protect the workforce against flu viruses. It requires about 10 days to take effect, but since flu season can last into May, it’s not too late to encourage your workforce to get vaccinated.
Invest in a flue-free environment
Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces.
Stop the spread of germs
Hold staff meetings to discuss the best ways to avoid spreading the flue and put posters in break rooms that ask employees to cough or sneeze into their elbow, wash hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer, keep desks, office equipment and other work surfaces such as phones and computer equipment clean, avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth and stay away from anyone who is sick.
Develop sick-day policies to promote health
As a manager, encourage sick employees to get tested, treated and develop HR policies that make it okay for sick employees to stay home (without fear of reprisal) until at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.
Urge rapid testing
If you suspect the flu, take a quick moment to get a non-invasive (no needle needed) rapid nasal swab flu test. The results take just 15 minutes to process and if positive, it gives you the chance to get treatment right on the spot.
Encourage the right treatment
If an employee is already sick, there are treatments and medications to lessen the severity of the flu, which reduces the spread of flu germs to family, friends and coworkers. Also, require them to stay home because you won’t be doing your workplace any favors by pushing sick employees to stay at work, where they will contaminate other employees and decrease productivity.
Foster healthy workforce lifestyles
Creating an environment and culture of good health for employees all year round can go a long way toward combatting a flu outbreak. Good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation programs are proven winners and can help avoid or at least lessen the impact of illness.
Don’t share and don’t crowd
If there’s an outbreak of flu in your workplace, you need to encourage employees to NOT share phones, computers, food and beverage, etc., and you should seriously consider not holding crowded meetings in small rooms as an infected person is a threat within six feet of healthy workers.