Here comes cold and flu season — and there goes your well-scheduled workplace, as employees call in sick or (maybe worse) stumble around the office in a haze, barely able to do their jobs. This time of year can be very costly for small businesses. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to minimize the damage caused and to protect your employees from the worst of the season.
Check Your Office Air Filters
Good ventilation can make an unexpectedly large difference in keeping up small business employee health. The Canadian government sets certain minimum standards for indoor air quality in offices, and the Canada Safety Council cites air quality as arguably the most important factor to keeping workers healthy and happy. When you go beyond the federal minimum standards by implementing regular air filter changes and maintenance on your office HVAC system, you can help screen out the viruses that spread colds and the flu, significantly reducing the risk of one worker getting the whole office sick.
Keep Things Clean
Cold and flu viruses spread in two other ways: direct contact and contaminated surfaces. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. If it is at all possible, consider assigning regular workstations to your staff, since people who don’t share keyboards and cubicles have fewer chances to infect each other. Another good idea, in addition to the other healthy worker initiatives you can encourage, is to keep bleach wipes at every station. Your workers will feel more secure when they can wipe down and sterilize surfaces other employees may have coughed or sneezed on, so consider making a one-minute cleaning part of the regular start-up sequence for every shift. These wipes kills germs on desktops, keyboards, armrests, doorknobs, and the computer mouse.
Be Generous About Paid Time Off
To stop the spread of sickness during cold and flu season, keep those nasty germs out of the office altogether. Sure, it seems counterintuitive to reduce sick time off by offering a generous sick leave policy, but ironically, doing so can save time and money in the long run. Imagine you have one employee who catches the flu from a sick child and quickly develops a bad case of it himself. In an office with strictly rationed paid time off, he may be motivated to come in while sick rather than taking time to recover his health at home. While he’s there, this employee is not likely to be putting in a full 100 percent— but all his coughing, sneezing, and nose-blowing are likely to spread that virus all over the place.
If your company’s policy tells employees to stay home whenever they’re sick, you may lose a single worker’s contribution for three to five days, but you save on the dozen or so other employees who never get sick because they haven’t been exposed. This multiplier effect gets exponentially bigger the bigger your workforce is, since an office with 100 people can quickly grind to a halt if even one person shows up with a bad flu.
Cold and flu take a bite out of Canada’s businesses every year. By keeping the air in your office sanitary, your surfaces clean, and your sick employees at home, you can do your part to contain and reduce the damage done.