By Princess Jones

Runny nose? Cough? Sore throat? Body aches? I hate to tell you, but it sounds like you’ve got the flu.

It’s actually possible to contract the flu all year long, but it’s more common during the fall and winter months. (The theory is that we spend more time indoors and sharing germs with each other during those times, which leads to the increase in the spread of the disease.)

But the flu isn’t just an inconvenience to you and your workers. It can really affect the productivity of your business if your office gets on the cycle of sick employees spreading it to each other over and over again. Unfortunately, you just can’t put everyone in a hermetically sealed bubble for the winter. Instead, try a combination of prevention and defense.

Promote Prevention

The best defense against the flu is prevention. Offer flu vaccinations on site for employees interested in getting them. If you can’t do that, consider making it easier for your workers to get the vaccine off site. For example, you could make a list of walk-in clinics that take your company insurance and offer flu vaccinations.

But vaccines aren’t the only way to prevent the flu. General good health is also key to fighting off the flu. Make your workplace a healthy one by encouraging exercise, good nutrition, and healthy living.

Make Disinfecting a Must

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu germs can spread to individuals up to six feet away from the infected person. Microscopic droplets from talking, coughing, or sneezing land in the mouth or nose of others. But simple good hygiene can be a very powerful deterrent to the spread of the flu.

Encourage workers to wash their hands frequently and to cough or sneeze into their elbows. Put signage up in the restrooms and break rooms to remind them. Bring it up in your staff meetings. Make it a standard operating procedure (SOP) to clean and disinfect desks and equipment daily, especially during flu season. The company can do its part by making sure the bathrooms stay stocked with soap and disinfectants and supplying hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to the staff.

Send Sick People Home

Don’t let sick people come to work. It seems simple, but many employees work sick because they want to save their time off for when they are feeling better. Others may be concerned about getting their special projects done. The result is that they spread their flu germs to the rest of the team, taking down each of them one by one. And then the cycle starts again.

Encourage workers to use their sick days instead of saving them up for vacation. If encouragement doesn’t work, make it company policy that management must send home sick employees. Offer work from home days or flex time so employees feel comfortable taking the time off and your work still gets done.