The Flu Balancing Act - Keeping Staff Productive

 My previous post about "Business Plan to Prepare for the Flu" has generated a local look at flu preparations from the Daily Record.  In "Employers craft 'stay-home' policies - Workplace can be 'point of spread' for virus"  reporter Jake Remaly looks at what Morris County businesses are doing to address the flu this season - how to take reasonable steps to balance staff being ill or staff needing to care for a sick family members with maintaining productivity and efficiencies.  

The first point mentioned is to communicate a uniform policy.  It is no good to have a sick policy that nobody is aware of - Bayer's 15,500 U.S. employees were recently advised via email  "the two best ways to protect yourself and others from influenza are to practice good hygiene, and stay home if you are ill."  Whatever policy you have, it needs to apply across the board to all staff - employment attorney Jonathan Nirenberg points out the potential legal issues of sending some staff home if sick but not others.

My contribution to the article was to address the question of "My employee is home and work isn't getting done - what now?".  One solution is to look to your technology - do you have a means of having staff work from another location?  While this might not be a long term policy you wish to implement, for staff whose job responsibilities are computer based, the ability to access their desktops from home might be the perfect solution to bridge the gap between addressing illness and maintaining productivity.  

Business Plan to Prepare for Flu

Should we be worried about the flu this year?  Is it being hyped out of proportion, akin to the sensational news coverage of the first major snowfall of the season, which never seems to materialize?  Or is the idea of a pandemic flu is so "unreal" in this day and age that workplaces ignore its potential threats?

A great source I found is www.flu.gov.  This is the federal government site dealing with questions about the flu. This information on the site is straightforward and practical (wash your hands!)  Within the site there is must read article for business owners and executive , Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009 – 2010 Influenza Season.  The article looks to business continuity preparation, as well as best practices a company might want to employ to address absenteeism and productivity during the the flu season.  

As an additional preparatory matter, do you you have the capability to allow employees to work from a remote location? If a local school closes, do any parents of younger children have job functions that might allow them to work from home? If so, do you have the technological capabilities allow that to happen? This may be the time to look at investing in infrastructure so your business can continue to be productive even if your employees are not at the office, either because they have to care for family members, or they have been experiencing symptoms themselves and you have made a business determination that sick people need to stay home.

Addendum - After I posted I came across this consumer oriented AP article - same message, while the flu may not be more deadly then others, it is more contageous, so don't panic, but take some practical steps:  Swine flu: 10 things you need to know