Late fall typically marks the beginning of cold and flu season, which can pose a real threat to businesses. While public health officials continue to push flu shots, the message isn’t inciting many people to act. Add to this those employees who are hesitant to take sick days, meaning they come to work and inadvertently spread germs, and the potential for a cold and flu outbreak heightens.

The impact such behaviors can have on businesses—especially small ones—is nothing to sneeze at. The website HealthyWorkPlaceProject.com, estimates a 25-employee company loses $33,000 every year to lost productivity, sick days, and temporary workers brought in to replace sick employees. So what can you do to keep your employees healthy? Here are five tips to reduce sickness in the workplace:

  1. Advise sick workers to stay home. Keeping sick employees from becoming a drain on productivity often requires a company policy on illness—one that gives workers peace of mind that taking a sick day will not have a negative impact on their employment.

  2. Encourage preventative care. Simply encourage employees to get vaccinated—in addition to other healthy habits such as eating well, exercising, getting plenty of rest, and proper sanitary practices for themselves and their work areas.

  3. Remind employees to wash their hands often. Incorporating reminders into company emails, newsletters, and even signage can be a non-intrusive way of relaying the importance of hand washing.

  4. Provide sanitizing products to keep workspaces clear of germs. Providing hand sanitizer, wipes, disinfecting sprays, and towels for employees to clean their desks and keyboards regularly will foster good sanitizing habits.

  5. Plan for increased sick days during cold and flu season. If possible, prepare telecommuting options for employees who feel well enough to work, but who may be contagious. Unless they're laid low by a bad flu, most employees can work a little bit from home. This strategy can help slow or eliminate the spread of cold and flu during peak season.

Of course, it is unlikely that you and your employees will be able to escape illness altogether, so having a solid healthcare benefits plan in place is another smart strategy. If you have any questions about healthcare benefit options, contact our firm for assistance.