Preparing for Flu Season During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The seasonal flu is a consistent risk that employers must deal with every year, but this year it is even more important to take precautions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workforce. The flu can result in increased absences, decreased productivity and greater health care costs. As such, organizations must take the threat of the flu seriously. To minimize the potential ramifications of influenza, consider these steps:
- Inform — Educating your employees on the differences between the seasonal flu and COVID-19 is important in order to make sure that the correct response measures are taken.
- Be flexible — Having employees work from home will help minimize the potential spread of germs within your workforce.
- Provide vaccinations — The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all adults get the flu vaccine unless they have had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. Employers can host on-site vaccination clinics to simplify the process.
- Clean — During the pandemic, employers should have already stepped up their cleaning and disinfecting processes, but these steps may become even more important during flu season.
- Distance — For employees who cannot work remotely, employers should establish—or revisit—social distancing measures to avoid the risk of spreading either COVID-19 or the flu.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also offers guidance to help employers manage the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace.
Employers should inform employees about signs of the seasonal flu. Instruct workers not to come to work if they are experiencing these common symptoms:
- A sudden high temperature of 38C or higher
- Body aches
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or stomach pain
Steps Organizations Should Take During a Second Wave of COVID-19
Steps Cases of COVID-19 are again on the rise across the country as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact employers across all industries. As the second wave moves across the nation, it is important for employers to consider what successes and failings they may have experienced during the first.
Although organizations will have had differing experiences during the pandemic, there are some steps that can be beneficial to a majority of employers. Keep these ideas in mind when making pandemic-related preparations going forward:
- Communication is key — Communicating frequently and regularly with employees, and helping facilitate communications between co-workers, is important. It is important for employees working remotely to be able to communicate effectively with each other, as well as with those who may be on-site.
- Education is important — When the pandemic first began, employers may have presented their workforce with an abundance of information pertaining to benefits, health and safety procedures, and other coronavirus-related scenarios. Organizations should take the time to update this information and redistribute it to employees.
- Mental health should be prioritized — For many reasons—such as higher stress levels, lack of social interaction and potential grief related to the loss of a loved one—workers may be struggling with their mental health. Organizations must be aware of this possibility and take steps to implement additional stress management and support systems.
- Flexibility goes a long way — Adapting to a remote work environment has often resulted in greater flexibility for employees throughout their daily routines. This has been a necessary change for many employees in order to remain productive, as they have had to balance their jobs with other responsibilities like child care. Employers should consider how they may be able to expand flexibility even further during a second wave of COVID-19.
The pandemic has created a number of unforeseen challenges for employers this year. It is now up to organizations to adapt.
Workplace Policies to Minimize the Spread of COVID-19
As a second wave of COVID-19 cases approaches, employers now have more experience managing this type of situation.
Consider these strategies to keep the workplace as safe as possible, such as:
- Allow emoloyees who are capable of performing their duties remotely to choose when, or if, they feel comfortable returning to the workplace.
- Conduct temperature checks and provide hand sanitizer as employees arrive.
- Limit capacity in common areas, such as elevators, washrooms and break areas.
- Redirect foot traffic and minimize employees’ contact with each other.
- Implement or maintain strict cleaning practices, such as frequent disinfection of shared areas and common touch points.