You know those mornings. You wake up feeling achy and miserable, barely able to drag yourself out of bed much less into the office. It takes all the energy you have just to get through the day and your only thought is crawling back into bed the minute you get home. At the end of the day, you feel a sense of satisfaction of having made it through. No, that flu did not beat you!
Nearly 90 percent of us go to work knowing we are sick, according to the fourth annual Flu Season Survey from office product company Staples. And this number is on the upswing from the same survey last year which indicated 80 percent went to work sick as well as the previous year’s 60 percent.
While many employees feel stoic for toughing it out, they may not realize just how much they are actually hurting their company’s bottom line. The Staples survey indicates the average employee’s productivity drops to under 60 percent of normal when sick. One person operating at a 40 percent reduced capacity may not make a dent in productivity; however, multiply that number by all those subsequently infected and the result could very well be a plummeting bottom line.

The Walgreens 2013 Flu Impact Report backs this number up. It estimates over a 30 billion dollar loss in workdays and productivity during the 2012-2013 flu season. In addition, the survey indicates three out of four employees were affected by the flu and 42 percent of those surveyed believe they got the flu from a co-worker.
In order to maintain a productive workplace, employers should encourage their employees to take the necessary time off to get well in order to protect not only themselves but other workers. Taking days off can be a struggle for some who either don’t want to fall behind in their jobs or are hesitant to show any sort of weakness. However, for those companies who are truly concerned about their balance sheet, here are some helpful suggestions:

As a boss, set an example. Those who manage others should show responsibility for the entire office by staying home while sick.
Encourage everyone to manage their time off to allow for some sick days every year. Most people get sick at least once a year so plan for it. Worst case scenario, or in this case, best case scenario, you end up with a couple of unexpected days off at the end of the year.
Be realistic…is it really just allergies? Or could you be sick and contagious? The sooner the employee can get a medical diagnosis, the sooner they will be on the road to recovery.
Make sure employees have a way to log into email or network from home so they can pitch in as soon as possible, even if they are not yet ready to come back to the office.
Consider increasing staff for flu season so workers will feel confident their job duties will still get done even if they are not there.
Require employees, visitors and vendors to sign an attestation they will not come to the workplace with symptoms of any contagious disease or illness.
Make arrangements with the cleaning crew for extra sterilization during flu season: door handles, light switches, faucets, keyboards, chair arms.
Discourage break room gatherings and reduce meetings where germs can spread en masse.

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