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Blue @ Work

5 keys to flu-free employees

Act on these preventive measures now.

*This article was last updated August 2020.

Do you feel like the flu season is always right around the corner?

Well, that’s because there's some truth to that.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) External Site, the flu season occurs in the fall and winter months — peaking between December and February, but the illness can linger as late as May. For the 2020-21 flu season, the CDC estimated that more than 35.5 million individuals contracted the flu External Site which lead to 16.5 million medical-related visits, 490,600 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths.

Think flu season doesn’t impact your workplace? Think again.

The key to every successful business starts with happy and healthy employees. When your employees fall ill, it can be difficult for them to prioritize their workload and productivity. And, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen how illness impacts businesses.

Don’t play the game of chance with your employees’ health, or your business could pay the price.

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The costly impact of the flu season in your workplace

17 million workdays missed by U.S. employees due to the flu

10.4 billion for hospitalization and outpatient visits

13 billion in lost productivity

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Challenger Gray

How to: Protect your workplace from the flu.

Avoid excessive illnesses and loss of productivity by carefully planning for the flu season.

Arm your employees with the information, tools and resources they need to remain healthy. Here’s five ways you can help:

  1. Flu shot or FluMist® — encourage it!

    The CDC recommends your employees should get their flu shots by the end of October before peak season hits. There are a couple options available to choose from. Either employees can receive the regular flu shot, or FluMist. *A note about the FluMist:The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) expects the FluMist to be available during the 2020-21 influenza season. Rest assured, if your employees choose the FluMist option, it will be covered by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the copay/coinsurance will dependent upon member benefits.

  2. Talk about hand washing.

    Yes, even with adults, you still need to have the conversation about hand washing. It’s unfortunate, but true. According to the CDC, global rates of hand washing after using the restroom External Site hover at only 19 percent. Talk to your employees about the importance of hand washing External Site, how to properly wash their hands Opens in a new window, and be sure to provide hand-wipes, soap and warm water, as well as hand sanitizing stations around the office.

  3. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

    Your employees are spending 40 (or more) hours a week at the workplace making it a hot spot to harbor germs. Make sprays, wipes, or additional disinfectants available to your employees and encourage them to wipe down high-touch surfaces after a day of work — especially if your workplace practices hot desking. When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting your facility, follow these easy, everyday steps External Site.

  4. Cough and sneeze the right way.

    Provide tissues for employees to sneeze or cough in throughout the worksite, but if not available, suggest the crook of their elbow.

  5. Encourage employees to stay home.

    Even if an employee begins to feel the slightest bit queasy — encourage them to go home. If their job can be done remotely, offer up that option just to isolate them from infecting others within the workplace. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If an employee experiences a fever (temperature of 100 degrees or higher), has symptoms or confirmation of the flu, encourage them to stay home from work for at least 4 to 5 days after the onset of symptoms.

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.

  • Know 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.

Short on time and resources? We’ve got you covered.

Download our comprehensive “Navigating cold and flu season at work” pitch kit Secure Site to receive tools, resources and insights necessary to educate and help prevent the cold and flu season from wreaking havoc on your workplace.

Don’t forget, as a Wellmark member, your employees can take action with their health and well-being when they register for myWellmark®. With myWellmark Opens in a new window, your employees receive access to several tools and resources to fight the flu, receive recommendations based on their specific health insurance plan, get their questions answered, or find the right place to get care.

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