The weather is cooling off, the trees are slowly changing colors, and pumpkin spice everything is filling the shelves of stores. This can only mean one thing – fall is finally upon us. Along with the excitement that fall brings, experts are warning that the “twindemic” may also come with this change of season.
What exactly is this “twindemic” you might ask? As we enter fall and winter months, experts fear the coinciding spike of two pandemics at once – COVID-19 and flu season.
Flu cases last year were mild due to everyone staying home, wearing masks, and being more diligent about washing their hands and using hand sanitizer. This year could be a different case altogether. With COVID-19 vaccinations came the lift of mask mandates and many taking the opportunity to get out and rejoin crowded public places. As we know all too well, this allowed the delta variant to seize the opportunity to spread and has caused case numbers to increase at a time when the flu season is just beginning.
Contributing to this fear of the twindemic are the many individuals who are still hesitant to get the flu shot, which could lead to worsening numbers. According to a Chicago Tribune article, “… Of those who were unsure or not planning to get vaccinated [for the flu], 34% did not believe the flu vaccine worked well, 32% said they never got the flu, 29% were concerned about potential side effects and 22% said they were worried about catching the flu from the immunization — though that’s not possible.”
Keeping the flu from running through your employee population this year is important now more than ever. You can be better prepared to avoid an outbreak by considering these tips:
1. Be a Flu Fighter
One way to show your support is to host a flu vaccine clinic onsite. This allows employees to get it done quickly and conveniently without having to take time off work. If this isn’t feasible, provide employees with resources on where to get a vaccine and a reminder of what is covered by insurance. Often employees avoid getting vaccines or other medical-related exams out of fear that they will have to pay. Reassurance of what is covered by your insurance can help alleviate any concerns and give them the extra push they need to be vaccinated.
If that isn’t enough, don’t forget that money talks! It’s amazing the difference you will see in participation when a raffle for a prize is involved. Incentivizing the flu vaccine could be your best way to get employees on board with getting it done. Have employees submit proof of their flu vaccine, enter their name into a raffle, and pick winners at the end of the month to celebrate!
2. Don’t give Germs a Free Ride
Most companies already have a revised sick policy in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is important for flu season as well. If you haven’t already, review your current sick leave policies and make sure employees feel encouraged to stay home if they aren’t feeling well without fear of punishment. Along with this, have steps in place for employees to report updates to their supervisor on any symptoms. Remember that those with the flu are most contagious during the first 3 days. Anyone with flu-like symptoms or employees who begin feeling sick during the day should be asked to go home to avoid further spreading of illness.
3. Be a Germ Buster
Preparing the office for flu season can also be a great way to reduce the spread of the flu. This could look like having tissues available for employees to use, use trash cans without a lid or invest in “no touch” trash cans to avoid high touch areas, and create cleaning stations with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to encourage employees to keep their hands and work areas clean.
On top of this, post pertinent information on prevention around the office. Providing employees with reminders about covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, throwing used tissues in the trash, and the importance of hand washing or hand sanitizer after nose blowing, coughing, or sneezing are all key areas to reinforce. While we all may be tired of hearing about respiratory etiquette, now is not the time to become lackadaisical about hygiene. Ramp up communication and expectations to keep everyone safe while they are at work.
4. Boost the Immunity
Building the immune system all year long can help prepare the body for when cold and flu season comes into play. Stock your breakroom with snacks that contain vitamins and minerals to help the body fight infection – fresh fruits and vegetables, like clementines and apples, snack size almonds or other nuts, or whole grain snacks like popcorn or crackers are just a few ideas.
Staying hydrated is also important when it comes to immunity. Provide employees with bottled water in the breakroom or give everyone a reusable water bottle with the company logo to boost morale and encourage better hydration practices. Hydration can often be overlooked as the weather cools off, but water plays a critical role in keeping everything running smoothly in the body.
If none of these ideas are within budget, simply posting and distributing information from a reputable source on healthy foods and snacks, as well as healthy habits to help keep the immune system strong can go a long way in making sure employees are given information to keep them safe.
Don’t turn a blind eye and allow your office to fall victim to the “twindemic”. Be proactive with your approach and start planning for flu season today!