Sep 21, 2009

Swine Flu and the Workplace

After first appearing on the scene last spring, the H1N1 virus--also know as swine flu--is back. Small businesses are scrambling to figure out how to cope with what promises to be a challenging fall and winter. Aside from employee absences and staffing issues, concerns about a flu epidemic raise a host of other issues for small businesses, like maintaining employees' health privacy and creating effective sick policy rules. A recent Wall Street Journal article provides advice and resources for businesses trying to figure out how to best prepare for this year's flu season.

The article discusses some preventive measures businesses can take, such as offering flu shots or time off so employees can get flu shots. Another is to keep the workplace more sanitary by frequently cleaning surfaces and having hand sanitizers available. Businesses may need to review their sick policies or create new ones, possibly adding more sick time so employees don't come to work sick. And businesses may want to cross-train employees or offer telecommuting as on option for employees who are home with a sick family member.
For more information, see Planning for 2009 H1N1 Influenza: A Preparedness Guide for Small Business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has information for businesses on its website at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business/toolkit/.

To learn more about creating a healthy and productive workplace, see Healthy Employees, Healthy Business, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).