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How to Keep Your Employees Healthy (and Productive)

  • 1. Offer on-site flu shots
  • 2. Merge sick and vacation time
  • 3. Encourage working from home
  • 4. Institute wellness programs

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

The air is getting colder, and that means one thing — more of your employees will soon be calling in sick.

Depending on your policies, your employees might feel pressured to come into the office when they’re sick, which only helps spread germs to other employees. In that case, you’ll have a mix of people coming in at less than 100% and those too sick to work at all. Naturally, productivity slips and your business takes a hit.

Regardless of what you do, some people are bound to get sick. However, is there anything you, the employer, can do to mitigate the impact of cold and flu season on your business? Actually, yes.

1. Offer on-site flu shots

Flu shots are far from perfect, but they're the best defense against the flu. However, working people — particularly parents — find it really hard to make time to get a flu shot.

By offering flu shots at your office, you'll give your employees easy access to this quick service during a short break at work. Productivity doesn’t suffer and your employees are armed against the flu. That’s a win-win.

2. Merge sick and vacation time

At some companies, taking sick time is frowned upon. Employees feel guilty about using it, especially if they think their boss will hold it against them or question their claims.

So what happens? The sick employee comes to work, thinking they’re being a team player when they’re actually putting their team at risk.

You can mitigate this awkward situation by combining your employees’ sick and vacation time into a lump Paid Time Off (PTO) policy. By doing this, your employees can use PTO days whenever they’re sick (or just need a mental health day) without feeling like they’re scamming the system.

In addition, encourage your managers to be flexible in distributing accrued time off. For instance, if an employee with no accrued PTO is sick in January, let them borrow the time off now and allow them to earn it back in the future as cold and flu season passes.

3. Encourage working from home

These days, companies are becoming more concerned with results rather than where they occur. In other words, as long as you’re getting your work done, the company doesn’t care if you’re in the office five days a week or four, with one day working remote.

This flexibility helps some employees better manage their work and life schedules, be it attending doctor’s appointments, their kids’ events, or any other responsibilities. It also enables employees to work from home when they’re mildly sick instead of taking a day off, or coming into the office and bringing their germs with them.

Screen sharing and other technologies enable employees to remain productive when working from home. Then they can take cold medicine and blow their nose in peace, not public.

Unfortunately, not all industries can accommodate remote work (sorry, healthcare professionals). But if yours does, consider adopting this culture to give your employees more ownership of their work schedules and wellness options.

4. Institute wellness programs

Healthy employees are best prepared to be productive, engaged, and happy with their jobs. That’s why wellness programs — promoting physical, emotional, and even financial wellbeing — help companies in both the short and long term. For instance, a career-driven person who wants to excel at their job will have trouble doing so if they’re distracted by physical ailments or after-work stressors.

Below are other less-obvious benefits to employee wellness programs:

  • Reducing claim costs: Generally speaking, the healthier your employees, the less likely they’ll develop chronic illnesses that will raise your insurance costs. Your company would reap these financial benefits over the long term.
  • Recruiting: These days, employees are expecting to get some added value from their company. Wellness programs can be critical in luring top talent to your organization.

What to remember

Cold and flu season is bound to impact your business’ bottom line. However, by taking these active measures, you'll score a win-win for both you and your employees. Encouraging healthy decision-making and empowering sick workers to stay out of the office will help maintain productivity throughout the season and boost employee morale.

What’s not to like about that?

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