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Tips for businesses as they cope with flu season

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on Jan. 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
January 11, 2013 1:00 pm

The flu, it is here.

The state Department of Health says the illness is now widespread in Washington. Nationally it’s taking quite a toll, and researchers report that the strain this year is a tough one.

The Small Business Administration offers seven tips to prepare your business and employees:

1. Identify a Workplace Coordinator -This person would be the single point of contact for all issues relating to a flu outbreak and be responsible for reaching out to community health providers and implementing protocols for dealing with ill employees – in advance of any outbreak or impact on the business.

2. Examine Policies for Leave, Telework and Employee Compensation - Obviously this will vary by business, but the emphasis here is on refreshing yourself and your employees about what your company’s health care plans cover in the event of sick leave as a result of the flu. You should also re-evaluate leave policies to ensure a flexible non-punitive plan that allows for impacted individuals to stay at home. Employees may also need to stay at home to care for sick children or telework in the event of school closures – so be prepared for this by implementing appropriate teleworking infrastructures in advance.

3. Post signs or host a flu vaccination clinic for employees – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides free posters and stock content for your employee newsletter that will remind staff about flu vaccinations and other safety precautions. The CDC also recommends holding a flu vaccination clinic for your employees, among other strategies, for ensuring your employees have access to the seasonal flu vaccine. The CDC Flu Toolkit for Businesses1.png provides all of these great resources.

4. Identify Essential Employees, Essential Business Functions, and Other Critical Inputs - Make plans to maintain communication and ensure clear work direction with critical personnel and vendors (and even customers) in the event that the supply chain is broken or other unpredictable disruptions occur.

5. Share your Flu and other Pandemic Plans with Employees and Clearly Communicate Expectations - Consider posting a bi-lingual version of your preparedness plan, leave information, health tips, and other flu awareness resources across all your work locations and online if you operate an Intranet.

6. Prepare Business Continuity Plans - Absenteeism or other work place changes need to be addressed early on so you can maintain business operations. Get tips on common sense measures your business can take from SBA.gov/Prepare.

7. Establish an Emergency Communication Plan - Hopefully your business already has some form of emergency communication plan. If not, document your key business contacts (with back-ups), the chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.

Additional Resources

Flu.gov for Businesses
CDC Flu Website

After all that, I would add, as an employee and a colleague: Please stay home if you’re sick, if at all possible. And, please get a flu shot. MultiCare is offering free flu shots tonight for children and uninsured adults. Learn more here.

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