Flu Is Your Worst Enemy: 10 Reasons to Stop Employees from Coming to Work Ill

When temperatures start to fall, more and more people find themselves sick with colds or the flu. For small businesses, that means you’ll likely have some employees try to come into work even while they’re battling these illnesses.

Olivia Curtis is a workplace wellness expert at HR company G&A Partners. Curtis runs the company’s award-winning corporate wellness program, EVOLVE, and develops wellness initiatives for workplaces. Curtis recently shared some insights in an email interview with Small Business Trends about the risks and pitfalls of employees coming to work with the flu or similar illnesses.

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Why Employees Should Stop Going to Work with the Flu

Here are 10 reasons why your business should discourage employees from attempting to work while they’re sick.

It Costs Your Employees

Curtis says, “The CDC estimates that the flu costs our nation about $10.4 billion per year in direct medical expenses and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually. Coming into work with the flu is a huge contributor of this! Coming to work sick not only negatively affects that employee personally (longer recovery time, loss in productivity, etc), but also that employee’s coworkers, their coworkers’ families and everyone else who comes into contact with them.”

It Causes Employees Not to Work at Their Best

Even if your employees show up and do the bare minimum when they’re sick, they’re likely not accomplishing as much as they would if they were healthy. So instead of paying them to show up and “work” for one day while potentially getting everyone else sick, it could be even better to pay them to stay home and finish any essential projects remotely or just rest for the day.

It Cuts Productivity Over Time

It can also lead to more long-term productivity issues. If employees deal with lengthy health issues, it can cause more distractions for them and their co-workers. It can even put a strain on office communication and relationships, meaning that your team doesn’t work as well together on collaborative projects.

It Can Lead to an Unhappy Culture

Healthy employees are generally happy employees. That can lead you to create a great culture within your business where everyone works well together and accomplishes your big goals. But if you have employees coming in sick, it negatively impacts your ability to create that type of culture.

It Can Impact Turnover Rates

Employees who are constantly battling illnesses aren’t likely to have especially high morale. And that could lead to higher employee turnover rates, meaning your business has to spend more on hiring and other HR related expenses.

It Costs Your Business

Even if you’re not taking those fringe effects into account, you can make a case for not allowing employees to come into work sick simply by looking at your company’s bottom line.

Curtis says, “There can be a large cost burden to the company as well in terms of lost productivity and revenue. A good portion of these costs can be avoided by simply staying home from work when feeling sick. In fact, using a flu epidemic simulator, the University of Pittsburg found that staying home from work for just one day when an employee has the flu reduced the risk of transmission to coworkers by 25 percent! That risk can be decreased even further, by 40 percent, by staying home for two days.”

It Can Impact Insurance Rates

Curtis pointed out that keeping your employees healthy can lead to a reduction in health insurance costs, both for your business and individual employees. So creating a policy that allows employees to stay home when they get the flu or encourages other healthy activities can lead to insurance savings down the road.

It Leads to More Risk

Coming into work sick is risky. It can lead to prolonged health issues and potentially even injury if those employees are as sharp and focused as they would normally be.

It Impacts Employees’ Health Over Time

Your employees’ health can make a huge impact on your business over time. When employees come in with the flu, it impacts their own health and the health of those surrounding them. And that can have fringe effects on things like their finances and social lives, which can cause stress and then make an even bigger impact on their health than they would have originally thought.

It’s Easy to Avoid

To keep your employees from coming into work with the flu, Curtis made a few simple suggestions. And your business doesn’t have to make any major changes. First, she suggest contacting providers like Walgreens or Rite Aid to hold on-site flu shot clinics, or just making sure your employees know where they can get flu shots. You can also put up informational posters around the office, provide hand sanitizer, and if possible, provide a paid sick day or two to encourage employees to actually take the time off if they do get sick.

Under the Weather Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon

Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird, and exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.