*This article was last updated August 2020.
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.
Did you know: The average office worker's hands External Site come in contact with 10 million bacteria each day? With a stat like that, it's not difficult to see why there have been between 39 and 56 million cases External Site of the flu throughout the 2019-2020 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And, lets be real, 2020 hasn't been the ideal year when it comes to viruses.
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:
Promote a flu shot campaign in your workplace
Worried your employees won’t take time to get their flu vaccine? Take time to promote your own flu campaign by downloading our “Guide: Navigating cold and flu season at work” pitch kit Secure Site.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.
Offer disinfectant wipes, everywhere.
Phones, desktops, laptops, keyboards, door handles — your employees constantly touch things throughout the day. And, the average desktop External Site has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Gross. Stock up and have disinfectant wipes around every workstation, and provide hand-sanitizer stations outside of the bathroom or around the office.
Provide (required) education or training.
In order 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 Opens in a new window. With Blue online, your employees can get content for healthy living, understanding health insurance Opens in a new window and more.
You already encourage your employees to exercise to improve their fitness, but now you can encourage them to help boost External Site their immune systems, 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 the days when mom would make warm chicken noodle soup and be by your side when you were ill? 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:
- Chicken soup
- Drugstore gift cards
- Cough drops
- 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. Employees may have varying situations. 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 2020-21 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?
While it's not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter months, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes it's likely that flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading.
One of the major issues at the beginning of the pandemic this last winter and spring was the burden already placed on the health care system due to influenza. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, have led to a decreased used of preventive medical services, including vaccinations External Site.
By encouraging your employees to receive their routine vaccinations even during the pandemic 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 — with COVID-19 being new and continually evolving by the day, we are learning more as days, weeks and months go by it can be difficult to decipher between symptoms. Both illnesses can 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.
myWellmark® serves as your employees trusted health sidekick
When your employees register for myWellmark Opens in a new window, they have access to several tools and resources to fight the flu. While you may be your employees' go-to information source, myWellmark allows your employees to take charge of their health and get to know and understand their specific health plan.
From finding an in-network doctor or pharmacy, to finding the right location to get care, real-time benefit information and educational content — everything can be done at your employees' fingertips.
Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Send Email.