CoAdvantage- What happens if the COVID-19 pandemic, when it collides with the seasonal flu this winter, turns into a “twindemic” with both illnesses running rampant? The prospect has health experts worried.
“We could see a perfect storm of accelerated COVID-19 activity as people gather more inside in particular, as they become increasingly fatigued with the mask wearing, social distancing, and the hand hygiene, and as they are exposed to seasonal influenza,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the infectious diseases division of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, during a news briefing.
That should be worrying for employers. The flu alone is costly. In the 2017-18 flu season, which was unusually bad, U.S. employers lost over $21 billion in productivity. In short, employers need to take steps to ensure their teams are prepared.
First, make sure your business has enacted safeguards in place against the spread of COVID-19.
- Follow all health and wellness guidelines published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and any local health authorities.
- Allow employees to work from home where possible.
- For employees who come into the office, offer personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks.
- Ensure employees as well as customers respect social distancing guidelines.
- If possible, conduct temperature checks of employees and visitors.
- Setup return-to-work procedures to verify sick employees are fully recovered.
Set up an emergency plan if there is a particularly bad outbreak of COVID-19 in your area or, worse, your office. This plan might include contingencies like limiting hours, temporarily closing on-premises spaces to visitors or customers, limiting services, and so on.
Second, take all the usual flu precautions you normally would.
The top recommendation: get a flu vaccine. As the CDC writes: “An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against influenza and its potentially serious complications.” Fortunately, according to Bloomberg, pharmacies have seen record demand for flu shots so far this year.
- Consider policies that encourage employees to get vaccinated, e.g. a paid hour off to get it.
- Encourage sick workers to stay home.
- Revisit sick leave policies to ensure sick workers are logistically able to stay home.
Now is also a good time to revisit any health and wellness policies set by your organization, if you haven’t already done so in response to the pandemic. Industry analysts at Deloitte recommend that employers “embed well-being into every aspect of the design and delivery of work itself and to fundamentally redesign work toward outputs instead of activities. This will open up the possibility for workers to both live and perform at their best.”
CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.