Diseases, sickness and infection can travel quickly in enclosed and crowded places. Most people are worried about students getting infected, but some seem to overlook the obvious: the workplace.
Although the media has caught on recently to the idea of swine flu disrupting the workplace, in all likelihood, most businesses (especially the small ones) probably don’t have a very effective plan to prevent spreading of the swine flu.
One of the easiest steps for employers to prevent an outbreak in the workplace is to encourage workers to stay home if they feel symptoms and to get checked out at the doctor and verify that they have swine flu. Workers can’t recover if they’re forced to act as if they’re not sick and are likely to spread the swine flu to other workers.
Here are other steps for employers to take:
1) Consider backup. Look for temp agencies and consider hiring a temporary employee or employees in case the swine flu does end up spreading in the workplace. This option would be more likely for smaller businesses that cannot afford to lose a few employees.
2) Educate employees. Do some research and find out where vaccines will be available and at what day and time. Encourage employees to get a shot if they are susceptible to illnesses.
3) Promote proper hygiene. Tell employees that they should be washing their hands after sneezing or coughing. Also, promote the use of hand sanitizer when employees are on-the-go.
4) Provide supplies. If necessary, provide hand sanitizer to promote hygiene. It might not prevent the swine flu, but it could minimize some harm. Also, if it is likely employees will get the swine flu, promote the use of face masks and provide some as well. This is more of an extreme scenario, but it might get the job done.
5) According to USAToday.com, some businesses are forbidding employees from traveling to Mexico unless it is critical. Perhaps this is a good idea, though eventually it probably won’t matter where employees go, since the swine flu seems to be widespread in areas of the U.S.
6) Don’t instill fear. Let employees know that they need to be aware of the swine flu but not to panic. As long as they have good hygiene, boost their immune system and possibly get a vaccine, they should be fine. Most people don’t die from the swine flu. Let them know that they are more likely to catch the seasonal flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 3,486 deaths from confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide (as of Sep. 13). About 36,000 people per year die from seasonal flu in the U.S., according to the CDC. Big difference, so don’t freak out…yet. Suggest that employees pay attention to the regular flu, though.