‘Tis the Season–to Catch the Flu

Employees please wash hands

It’s that time of year again. No, not the last minute shopping, wrapping and list checking, but the aches, pains,  coughing, and nausea induced flu season that haunts us, year in and year out.

It can come at a moments notice. Just ask the folks I work with. Last week we had a construction team in to do some work on part of the facility. One of the construction workers was visibly sick and left more than we bargained for. Our organization has had six employees call in sick over the last two days with flu-like symptoms, me included.

How Much Does The Flu Cost?

The flu costs about $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity. The indirect costs such as missed work and reduced productivity are even greater– studies have shown that sick workers on the job costs the U.S. economy $180 billion a year in profits and lost productivity.

-Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona

Working during flu epidemyUnfortunately, sick days are just not an option for some. In fact a recent survey done by Staples revealed that nearly 90 percent of office workers admitted to showing up for work, even when they knew they were sick.

Why you ask? They didn’t want to fall behind. About half, excused their presence due to their workload and their trek in, was necessary to keep up.

How productive can a sick employee really be?

Gerba points out that no matter how important people might think their work is, their germs they will most likely spread, will undoubtedly make others sick, causing more harm than good to the organization. Germs can be spread quickly and easily. From the front door handle to the coffee pot, germs are potentially everywhere, especially during the flu season. Gerba also points out that viruses can last anywhere from a few hours to 30 days.

The medication makes me feel better.

True, the medications may make you feel better, but they could actually result in a lower level of production and quality out of you, leaving you with even more to catch up on, when you’re healthy again. Also, by masking your symptoms with medications, you can actually prolong the illness by overexerting yourself.

We see a lot of worsening symptoms because people will just not stop and rest. What they don’t understand is that they’re pushing themselves to the point where they’re actually a lot sicker at the end of two to four days than they would have been if they had just taken that fist day off and let their body fight the infection.

-Catherine Cummins, health sciences assistant clinical professor, University of California-Irvine School of Medicine

Tips To Get You Through Flu Season

  • Avoid the “T Zone” — If someone is sick or feeling ill around you, don’t touch your “T Zone.” That is, your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have thoroughly washed your hands first.
  • If you’re feeling sick, stay home! –– Stay home, rest up, and quickly get back to your old self, in bed, not at the office.
  • Avoid close contact — Avoid close contact with anyone who appears to be sick and if you’re the one sick, keep your distance from others.
  • Wash your hands frequently — This is your first line of defense against germs entering your body. Soap and water should be your first option, but hand sanitizer is okay in a pinch.
  • Get the flu shot — It’s estimated that barely one-third of the US population has received the flu vaccination this season. People have many personal reasons why they don’t, but I would encourage you to do your research and truly decide for yourself if it is the best thing for you and your family.
  • Practice good health habits — Eating nutritious foods and living an active lifestyle is your best way to keep your body prepared for the flu season. Get the recommended amount of sleep and manage your stress to keep you healthy and productive this flu season and beyond.

Additional Resources