Ensuring employee health is vital to the productivity of your organization.
When employees are healthy, they are better able to focus on work matters. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers make all reasonable efforts to ensure the health and safety of employees while they are on the job. Most employers are encouraged to adopt an injury and illness prevention program that can significantly reduce the number of ailments that may negatively impact employees.
Even so, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that millions of cases of the common cold and influenza are reported each year (between 9.2 million and 35.6 million since 2010). During the peak of the cold and flu season—when it seems everyone has a case of the sniffles—what are some ways of ensuring employee health? Here are six helpful tips.
1. Make Good Hygiene a Priority
A simple and highly effective way to help employees stay healthy is encouraging everyone to wash their hands, use hand sanitizers and keep their workspaces clean. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study that showed the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers reduced preventable health care claims in a group of employees by over 20 percent. Not only that, but increased attendance levels were observed and workers experienced a morale lift because they believed their employer had their best interests in mind.
Consider posting hand-washing reminders in all restrooms, keeping hand sanitizers at every workstation and providing germ-busting desk wipes in all areas. This can empower employees to clean their desks, keyboards and phones once a week.
2. Ask Employees to Stay Home When Sick
Any workplace that puts employees in close proximity to one another enables illness to spread. Educate employees about the importance of staying home and getting medical care when they are sick. Management can set a good example by sending sick employees home to rest.
Managers should also take time away from the office when they feel ill, because coming to work sick sends the wrong message to employees. Alternatives can include offering employees the opportunity to work from home when they are sick or when they need to care for family members.
3. Offer Company-Sponsored Flu Vaccinations
According to the CDC, an annual flu vaccine is the best way for individuals to protect themselves from falling ill with a strain of influenza. The flu season starts around October in most regions and can last as long as May of the following year. Employers can do their part in ensuring employee health by offering flu shots free of charge to workers. This can be performed by any occupational medicine center or through a local drug retailer.
4. Create a Health Education Campaign
Education can be very effective when it comes to promoting the health and well-being of employees. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides evidence that the more educated individuals are about wellness components and benefits, the more likely they are to make lifestyle choices that positively impact their health.
Each workplace can provide access to wellness information and resources for preventing illness. The health education campaign should include information about health benefits, where to get help and how to reduce stress (which can help boost immunity).
5. Encourage Employees to Use Dental Benefits
Did you know there is a direct link between good oral hygiene and illness prevention? The Mayo Clinic notes that regular dental care, such as brushing and flossing, can help cut down on harmful bacteria found in the mouth. However, certain medications (including over-the-counter cold remedies) can reduce the body’s own immunity found in saliva. Heading to the dentist is the only way to fully clean teeth and gums and keep them healthy so the body can stay well.
6. Provide Wellness Support
Any workplace can become a stressful environment when employees engage in a number of unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking, indulging in calorie-laden snacks, drinking too much caffeine and more. These factors can contribute to poor overall employee health. Instead, employers may want to consider taking steps to provide wellness support to their employees.
Organizations can set up walking paths or small fitness centers near offices. Snack machines can be stocked with healthy food and beverage choices. Local restaurants can provide nutritional meals for employees with a delivery program. Additionally, an employee assistance program can provide outlets for employees dealing with stressful life or work events.
By trying one (or more) of the above tips, employers can help to ensure the health and well-being of employees. In turn, these actions could significantly benefit organizational outcomes.