It is cold and flu season: Teach your employees ‘how to be sick’

The headline may look like a misprint, but presenteeism is a major problem in many workplaces. “Presenteeism” is when sick employees come to work anyway and often infect their coworkers as well. Train your employees on how to be sick so they can get well and get back to normal more quickly.

Help employees tell the difference between a common cold and the flu. The common cold is a virus that typically infects the nose and throat and can occur any time during the year. Influenza, or “the flu,” is an infection of the respiratory system caused by an influenza virus and is most common during the winter into spring. Next, ensure employees know how the cold and the flu spread. Colds are spread more readily when people are indoors, where the chances increase for contact with contaminated surfaces and inhalation of airborne viral particles. The flu is most commonly spread when viral particles are emitted into the air by coughing and sneezing, or when a contaminated surface is touched.

Training your employees to stay home when they’re not feeling well and during the infectious stages of illnesses will help you minimize decreased productivity by ensuring that when employees are on the job, they’re working at full capacity. It also ensures that sick employees won’t infect co-workers, leading to more sick days from more workers. The flu alone causes U.S. employees to miss about 17 million workdays, at an estimated $7 billion annually in sick days and lost productivity, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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