It’s that time of year again; the season when sneezing, sniffling and coughing begin to dominate the workplace. If you’re regularly hearing these sounds throughout your office, it’s likely that a lot of germs and viruses are flying around.
While the common cold can pass through without much consequence, just one employee coming to work with the flu can start a serious office epidemic, resulting in a slew of sick days and lost productivity. This is why getting a flu shot is so important for all employees—it’s the best way to protect against influenza.
Here’s an overview of the illness, as well as tips for encouraging your colleagues to get a flu shot this season.
So, What Is Influenza?
Influenza, or the flu, is described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.”
Flu viruses are very contagious and spread through tiny droplets that are sent into the air when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. These droplets may infect someone else by landing in their mouth or nose. You can also pick up flu viruses by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Unfortunately, you can pass the flu on to other people before you even know that you are sick. After exposure, it takes about two days before symptoms appear; the most contagious period is in the first three to four days after the illness begins.
Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
Influenza is a serious illness. What might seem like an inconsequential sickness to a healthy employee could result in complications requiring hospitalization when passed on to someone else. Individuals who are most likely to develop flu-related complications are those with a chronic condition like diabetes, asthma or heart disease, people over the age of 65, pregnant women and children younger than 5 years old.
This is why the CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated. And any parents or caregivers of infants under that age should always be vaccinated in order to protect the baby.
Encouraging Coworkers to Get Flu Shots
Ideally, the CDC recommends people get vaccinated in early fall or by the end of October. However, the flu vaccine is typically offered—and is still beneficial—throughout the flu season. Keeping the workforce healthy has a lot of advantages for individual employees and the larger company. So, here are a few tips on how to encourage your coworkers to get a flu shot and how to stay healthy this year:
- Provide information that explains the importance of flu shots (and where to get them) on all bulletin boards and in common areas like the lunchroom. Shots are often available at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, urgent care clinics and health departments. You can also direct employees to the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.
- Consider offering the flu vaccine at the office. You will need to call your state’s Department of Health, order the vaccine and schedule a date for administration. The more convenient it is for employees, the more likely it is they will get the shot.
- Plan an incentive or hold a raffle. Any employee who has gotten the vaccine can enter their name in the raffle for a prize.
- Educate employees on how to prevent the flu, like frequent hand-washing and staying away from sick people.
- Urge employees to stay home from work when they are sick in order to reduce infecting their colleagues. Also reassure them that if they go to a doctor at the onset of the flu, they may be given an antiviral medication that could help significantly.
Healthy workers are productive workers! Therefore, it’s worth your time and effort to convince colleagues that getting a flu shot is the best assurance they have to avoid contracting the flu this season.
Looking for other ways to effectively engage and support your fellow employees? Take a moment to explore United Concordia Dental’s Employer Toolkit.