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Blue @ Work

The workplace flu survival guide you've been searching for

5 tips to incorporate into your workplace now.

This article was last updated Nov. 15, 2022.

The flu season doesn't hold back just because there's work to be done. Between the constant out-of-office messages, loss of productivity, and persistent fear of catching whatever that coworker a desk over has, the workplace can be a trying time during flu season.

5 tips for flu prevention in your workplace

Since your employees spend a majority of their day at work, it's important to keep your workplace from becoming the inevitable "germ trap."

Consider our five tips for flu prevention within your workplace:

  1. Promote a flu shot campaign in your workplace

    By promoting educational and resourceful content to your employees, you will help employees prevent an outbreak, save your company money and decrease absenteeism and loss of productivity.

  2. Worried your employees won't get their flu vaccine?

    Take the time to promote your own flu campaign by downloading our “Guide: Navigating cold and flu season at work” pitch kit (M-2020554) in the Wellmark Marketing Toolkit.

  3. Protect yourself and encourage others to do the same.

    Mask-wearing became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, but masks can help protect the spread of other viruses, too — including the flu. Keep masks on hand and distribute to employees around peak flu season. The best masks for flu prevention are approved N95 masks and surgical masks.

    Phones, desktops, laptops, keyboards and door handles are just a few things your employees constantly touch throughout the day. Stock up and have disinfectant wipes around every workstation, so your employees can protect themselves from the bacteria-born illnesses, like the stomach flu.

  4. Use large work areas.

    Since the flu and COVID-19 viruses are largely transmitted through the air, open up big and spacious rooms, such as conference rooms or all-employee halls, to help decrease the chances of transmission. If your workplace doesn't have large spaces, it can help to open windows, improve or clean out ventilation (HVAC) systems or even allow employees to work outdoors if the weather permits.

  5. Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.

    The best thing you can do to protect your workplace is encourage sick employees to go home or stay home if they feel ill. Typically, they should stay away from work and other crowded spaces until at least 24 hours after their fever has broken or after their symptoms have improved.

  6. Provide (required) education or training.

    To create a healthy workplace, your employees need to be educated on signs and common flu symptoms so they can prevent germs from spreading around your workplace. We've got exactly what they need with BlueSM online. Blue online gives your employees content for understanding health insurance Opens in a new window, living healthier Opens in a new window and more.

Support employees during cold and flu season

While these tips don't prevent the flu, they can help to reduce the severity of an illness and show your employees you care about them.

  • Emphasize exercise.

    We know exercise is great for improving fitness, but it also has immune-boosting qualities External Site, too! According to research from the CDC, 1 in 4 American adults are sitting for more than eight hours External Site a day. Consider these tips for getting your employees to move more while at the office, or sneak in movement throughout their day if working remotely.

  • Create mini get-well kits.

    Remember back to sick days home from school when a comforting bowl of soup and a cozy couch helped you recover? As we grow up, it's easy to forget what a little TLC can do. Help your employees feel better when they need it the most by creating mini get-well kits to offer October through March. Consider a few of these items:

    • A healthy soup
    • Drugstore gift cards
    • Cough drops
    • Tissues
    • Bottled waters
    • A funny movie
    • Crossword puzzles, magazines or books
    • Get-well card
    • Disinfectant wipes

What if an employee catches the flu twice in one season?

We don't like to pose the worst-case scenario but preparing for it can help keep your workplace running smoothly if an employee (or two) comes down with a second case of the flu in one season.

Stranger things have happened. Here's what you need to know and share with your employees should a second outbreak occur.

  • If an employee comes down with a second round of the flu, they might be short on paid time off (PTO), or sick days. Should a second round occur, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) External Site, covered employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious medical conditions.
  • Determine if an employee can do their job remotely and encourage them to work from home in the case of illness, and understand that situations vary. For instance, someone may feel fine but they could still be contagious. Others may be extremely ill with little bouts of energy throughout the day, and others may simply be living with someone who is contagious and don’t want to spread it further. Having the option for your employee to do their job from home can help them determine a schedule that works best for them while they are on the mend.

Quick update on the upcoming flu season and COVID-19

To prepare for both flu season and COVID-19, we've rounded up some of your most pressing questions.

Will the flu and COVID-19 become worse during fall and winter?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention External Link (CDC) believes that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will continue to spread this fall and winter.

Encouraging your employees to receive their routine vaccinations is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.

Will a flu shot help protect employees from COVID-19?

Getting a flu vaccination will not protect your employees against COVID-19. However, flu vaccinations are still important External Site for your employees to receive since they are shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death.

What's the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

The world as we once knew it has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Both COVID-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms, but it’s important to know that they are caused by different viruses. Both illnesses can cause fever, cough, body aches and fatigue and be spread easily through air droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk.

It’s incredibly important your employees know the difference between COVID-19 and the flu External Site to ensure they don’t misdiagnose and know when it’s time to seek care.

Help your employees get care

When your employees are sick, they just want care — and as quickly as possible. Help your employees take charge of their health by referring them to member-focused resources for finding care Opens in a new window that gives them tools to find a provider, get the care they need or get answers to their health-related questions.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.