The cold-and-flu season is still going strong. Here are some simple things you can do to keep illnesses from taking down your team.
While not every employer has the luxury of offering health insurance coverage or generous paid time off, doing what you can to promote health and wellness in the workplace is imperative. Consider the following six-point plan for ensuring employees stay well, and if not, stay home.
1. Allow employees to work remotely.
If an employee is well enough to work–but still contagious–make it clear that he or she should stay home and work remotely. Naturally, not every workplace can accommodate remote work, but if yours can, giving employees the green light to stay home, can help stave off spreading illness in your workplace.
2. Skip the doctor’s note.
Offering paid sick leave is a no-brainer, as it encourages sick employees to stay home. If you offer it, don’t also require employees to get a doctor’s note, suggests Hadas Almog, a human resources manager at Walkme, a San Francisco-based IT company, which allows all 600 of its employees to call in sick without a note. While you want your employees to be well and get help if they’re not, requiring employees to provide a doctor’s note on short notice can be onerous–so much so that people may just decide to go to the office when they aren’t well.
3. Encourage preventative treatment.
While getting help when you’re sick is important, making sure employees seek medical care all year long is the key to a healthy workplace, says Dr. Rajiv Kumar, president and chief medical officer at the Virgin Pulse Institute, a Providence, Rhode Island-based health research firm. Between travel vaccinations before a work trip and simply getting an annual flu shot, these preventative measures can help employees avoid costly medical treatments down the road. It can also save your business in terms of lost employee productivity, Rajiv adds.
4. Bring flu shots to the office.
Speaking of flu shots: Make getting them even easier by bringing the shots to your office. Konnect Agency, a public relations firm with offices in New York City, Austin, and Los Angeles began offering the in-office perk five years ago.
The results have been tangible, says Tara Lopez, the company’s benefits manager. “When we implemented ‘wellness days’ for doctor’s visits we saw a dramatic decrease in early dismissals for one-off appointments,” Lopez says. In other words, people called out less frequently.
“We found that employees were resisting doctor’s appointments because they’re typically booked in the middle of the day,” Lopez says. Konnect Agency uses a local pharmacy for programs at each of its offices. However, a variety of outlets like CVS and Rite Aid, offer workplace flu shot programs for small- to medium-sized companies across the country.
5. Give tech-enabled healthcare a try.
Adopting telehealth technology might also help cut down on absenteeism. At The Motley Fool, a financial-advice website in Alexandria, Virginia, employees or “Fools,” have access to virtual doctors, according to Christine Noonan, the company’s head of benefits.
“Virtual doctors save The Motley Fool money because we are self-insured. An office doctor visit is around $100 to $120 and a virtual visit costs around $45 to $65,” Noonan says. Plus, employees can skip the co-pay. Through an app-based platform, users can enter insurance information, video chat with a physician, and receive a diagnosis and prescription in under half an hour.
“We’ve heard great feedback from many Fools about how convenient and less expensive it is to rely on a virtual doctor,” says Samantha Whiteside, The Motley Fool’s chief wellness officer.
6. Stock up on healthy supplies.
Keep the supply closet and company kitchen brimming with antiseptic tools and immune-boosting food and drinks. It’s an easy, tangible perk for employees that may even be tax deductible. “One fun thing we did this year is stocked up a cart with Purell, Emergen-c, Lysol, and Kleenex, and walked through the office encouraging everyone to take liberally from the cart and reminding them to stay home if they are sick,” says Shannon Mclendon, head of office operations at The Motley Fool.