While Ebola has kept the world’s attention in the headlines, it’s actually the flu that causes more of an impact. Not only those suffering from its symptoms—but the companies in which those affected work.
The wretched flu is here again. The bad dream that continues to reoccur despite our utter distaste for it. And, like every year, we are once more taken up in frenzy at the potential for what this wintry season has in store for our poor, defenseless immune systems. Almost as if we don’t already know that we are surely doomed for some type of icky illness that will no doubt arrive precisely at the wrong time — like hours before the holidays or right when a project deadline is looming.
According to the International SOS, a worldwide medical and travel security risks company, 83% of companies are expecting more of an impact from the flu than from Ebola this year. Now, this statistic doesn’t sound very surprising. After all, Ebola is harder to spread than the flu. But, what is astounding is the amount of loss that comes from the flu on a yearly basis:
The US Government advises that during each flu season 111 million workdays are lost, costing approximately $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity in the US.
This is shocking, but it’s hard to deny. And while some may only see the loss of money as difficult, we can’t help but point out that the setbacks from loss of productivity can actually be worse. Essentially, those out sick with the flu are not just being affected by the illness; colleagues, partners, employees, clients, vendors, just about anyone you conduct business with will also suffer.
Suddenly, work is delayed, deadlines missed, calls not returned and eventually, projects altogether stop. It’s a madhouse of scrambling to make up for what others are unable to provide, while simultaneously fighting off the susceptibility your over-worked body has against horrendous symptoms and infection. It’s a two-fold problem with insurmountable circumstances outside our control. And the cycle just continues.
On the bright side, there’s no guarantee we’ll get the flu. Sadly however, it’s here and it’s lurking. According to Dr. Gordon Peters, Medical Director at International SOS North Asia, the flu shot is a must:
“If organisations are considering a plan to vaccinate staff — now is the time to act.
The vaccine is effective in preventing influenza among healthy adults. Vaccinating a workforce can have a noticeable, positive impact on an organisation’s lost hours due to sickness.
There are many unknown factors that affect business continuity, but flu is predictable and preventable.”
So besides getting the flu shot and washing our hands incessantly, what can we do to help prevent getting bogged down by sickness? Consider the following suggestions:
- Dress appropriately. That means winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, boots and yes, warm pants and shirts. This may sound patronizing to be reminded of such a simple deterrent, but honestly, I’ve seen what people are trying to get away with in this ten degree weather and trust me, short leather coats and baseball caps are NOT warm enough!
- Stay well rested. The greatest way to contract any illness is to have a low immune system. And the best way to mess that up is by depriving yourself of sleep. Do yourself a favor, stop working late hours. Fill your evening with rest and ample, high quality sleep.
- Travel smart. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has to fly this flu season, be sure to load up remedies that you know work for you. Use carry-on luggage and stow it yourself. The fewer hands touching your stuff the better. Be a rebel and order tomato juice rather than soda for that added dose of vitamins. Also, don’t be afraid of using a face mask. I realize this is a goofy tactic that will no doubt reward you with stares, but trust me, you’ll have the last laugh when you spend the holidays happy and sick-free.
- Have a plan. The flu can easily become an epidemic in your office this season. So prepare ahead of time for the pandemonium. Have a defined strategy that contains action items, assigned back-ups, project tasks, and take-over duties. Giving your employees the heads-up to what they need to do in case the flu strikes will definitely help. Don’t allow panic to set in when numerous employees are out.
It’s flu season, but we don’t have to assume we’ll all get sick. We know what’s coming, and we know what to do. Keep warm and be well!