Is Your Workplace Ready for the Flu Season?

Winter is coming and so is the flu season. Influenza, commonly called ‘the flu’ is highly contagious. It is spread when infected people cough or sneeze and via surfaces that become contaminated by them. Flu is not the same as a common cold – it is far more severe and leaves you feeling dreadful.

The flu is very easy to catch. People may be contagious for up to a day before having any symptoms and the flu virus can survive:

  1. More than an hour in the air in enclosed spaces
  2. More than 8 hours on hard surfaces like plastic or stainless steel
  3. Up to 15 minutes when transferred to hands from tissues


Flu and work absences

Last year Australia recorded the highest number of flu cases ever, which also led to higher than usual absenteeism in the workplace.

Businesses expect higher absences in winter, but the costs of short-term workplace absences are high and include:

  1. Sick pay to the employee
  2. Temporary shift cover and the time spent finding it
  3. Higher overtime costs
  4. Lost production time
  5. Additional training time


How to lower the risk of contagion

Despite being so contagious, there are ways to reduce your chances of catching it.

  1. Promote the influenza vaccination

By far the most effective way of protecting against the flu is by vaccination. After a particularly bad flu season in the northern hemisphere, the Australian flu vaccination includes two new strains of the virus. If your workplace cannot provide flu vaccinations, encourage employees to go to the doctor as soon as possible to get their flu vaccination.

  1. Avoid close contact

Try to avoid close contact with people who already have the flu. If you have it, protect others by keeping your distance.

  1. Wash your hands

Frequent hand washing helps protect you from germs. Use soap and water whenever possible, otherwise use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  1. Maintain general good health habits

If somebody in your home or workplace is sick, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. To stay as healthy as possible, eat nutritious food, manage your stress levels, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids and be physically active.

  1. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth

Germs spread quickly from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This provides germs with a quick pathway straight into your system.


What to do if you get the flu

  1. Go to the doctor quickly. Your GP can prescribe antiviral flu medication but these are only effective within 48 hours of getting flu symptoms. This will not cure your flu, but it will shorten your recovery time and lower the chances of getting secondary issues.
  2. Rest and relax. This is very important so that you give your body the best chance at fighting the virus.
  3. Taking over the counter painkillers may make you feel better.