How to Keep Your Office and Employees Flu-Free This Winter

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sick employees at work

It’s that time of year – the time when hacking coughs, sneezes and nose-blowing ring through every small business. How can you deal with sick employees at work and keep them healthy (and productivity high) during cold and flu season?

3 Tips to Avoid Having Sick Employees at Work

Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home

The benefits of having a sick employee come in to handle his or her work are far outweighed by the risk that the person will infect the rest of the staff. However, if employees feel penalized for staying home, they won’t do so.

One study found that staying home just one day when sick reduces the chance of co-workers’ catching the flu by 25 percent. Staying home two days cuts the risk by 40 percent.

If employees are worried they’ll get overloaded with work while they’re out, try letting them work from home. At the same time, don’t require employees to work (even at home) if they truly need to rest.

Keep it Clean

Colds and flu spread in winter because people are more likely to spend time inside in an enclosed environment. Keep that environment as germ-free as you can by making sure your office is properly maintained.

Keep disinfectant sprays on hand and regularly spray down door handles, break room surfaces, bathroom faucets and anything else that lots of people touch all day. If your staff shares tech tools like tablet computers, handheld bar-code scanners, desktop computers, cash registers or headsets, make sure you have the appropriate cleaners and cloths to disinfect these surfaces at the beginning of each shift or when people trade off their equipment.

Also, keep tissues and lots of hand sanitizer on hand – consider having some available in every room.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Post signs in the restrooms and break room reminding employees to wash their hands with soap. Also post signs reminding employees to clean equipment that is shared.

If your business offers health insurance that covers flu vaccines, encourage employees to get vaccinated. Since many people don’t want to make a special trip to the doctor’s to do this, see if your insurer offers any type of mobile vaccination clinic. Some medical providers will come out to businesses and provide flu shots for a fee.

Even as a small business, you may be able to band with other local businesses to get this service or piggyback on a bigger company in your office building that is bringing in a flu shot clinic.

Sick Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. All great tips. Thanks. It’s probably harder for some small business owners to take time off sick if they feel the business relies on them to a large extent. The smaller the business, the more likely that feeling might be, I think.

    But, yes, taking that time off is important; not paying attention to your body might mean you end up taking more time off sick than you would like, because you didn’t listen to your body in the first place.

    • While taking a time off may sound ideal, you’re right when you say that this is not really an option for some businesses. Especially for us that is short of people. We just cannot afford having some people taking some time off.

      • …which is why it’s probably more essential, paramount, to keep sickness at bay as much as possible in a business that size where taking time off could have that impact. Maybe a health-and-wellness budget of some sort would be useful. And also employing a part-time flexi person (a floater) for when someone has to take time off sick, because it’s inevitable that sickness will happen.

  2. And avoid smoking or prohibit smoking in the area and then give them a flu vaccine. This will help them avoid the flu all season.

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