What is the Flu Costing Your Organization?
Why should employees get the flu shot and how to encourage them
There’s no getting around it now, flu season is here! Every year provincial health care systems offer an influenza or ‘flu’ immunization program in an attempt to reduce the severity of the symptoms and contain the spread of the virus. It is easily accessible and generally free of charge in most provinces and for most people . The ‘flu shot’ campaign is in full swing across Canada now.
For those who get the flu shot every year, it is unfathomable why anyone would hesitate and yet over half of the population of Canada will not roll up their sleeves this year and get the vaccine.
Why flu shots are avoided:
Although it is indisputable that having the flu is miserable and unpleasant, getting the flu shot is strictly a personal decision and the reluctance is rationalized in many ways, such as:
- Religious beliefs
- Medical concerns
- Fear – of needles
- of getting the flu from the flu shot
- of side effects from getting the flu shot
- that the flu shot is not safe
- that the flu shot is ineffective and won’t prevent the flu
- that it’s too late in the season to get the flu shot for it to help
- that taking getting the flu shot is inconvenient and/or time consuming
- that they are still covered by last year’s vaccine
- that they don’t need the flu shot because they don’t get the flu
How the flu costs an organization:
Whatever the reason, it could be argued that if you didn’t get immunized and then did come down with the flu, it would be your own fault and only you would suffer but this is not strictly true. The impact of the flu reaches far beyond the infected individual, affecting not only the people around them but also the workplace, both directly and indirectly, in many ways through:
- Sick days – paying wages for sick leave.
- Decreased productivity – paying full wages for less than full productivity.
- Temporary or casual workers – hired to cover sick time and maintain productivity
- Co-workers picking up the slack – increased workloads and overtime to meet productivity or service demands.
- Increased safety risks – due to employees coming to work when not feeling well, staff being overworked covering for sick employees, inexperienced temporary workers – all of which can result in work-related accidents and incidents thus increased claims costs.
- Exposure of other non-immunized staff to virus – creating further time loss or reduced productivity.
How to encourage employees to get the flu shot:
What we know is that the flu is costly; not just to the sufferer but to the general economy. If more people were convinced to get the flu shot, there would be fewer cases of the flu and with fewer flu outbreaks, the medical and economic costs associated with the flu would drop significantly. So now the problem becomes how to get more people to participate in the flu immunization program.
As an employer, here are six ways you can encourage your employees to get the flu shot this winter:
1. Host a Clinic
On-site vaccination clinics are easy for employees to attend and reduce missed work time for doctor visits. If you have an on-site health clinic, work with it to set up a flu shot schedule. Local clinics or pharmacies may be able to bring qualified health care professionals to your site to offer flu vaccinations. Private vendors also offer pop-up flu clinics on-site; check to see if there are any in your area.
2. Promote a Clinic
If an on-site clinic isn’t feasible, identify clinics, hospitals or pharmacies local to your place of business that may be offering flu vaccines. Allow employees to attend the clinics during the work day and consider offering transportation for any employees that may need it. The easier it is to get a flu shot, the harder it is to avoid it.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), federal and provincial governments provide posters, flyers, mailers and online buttons employers can use to educate employees about the importance of getting seasonal vaccinations and where they can do so. Posting lists of nearby clinics around the workplace can also be useful.
4. Offer Incentives
As with any wellness effort, goals and rewards can boost participation. Hold a contest to see which department or location can get the highest compliance rate. Offer refreshments or a free lunch for employees to enjoy at the clinics as they get their shots. Give gift cards or company swag (hats, t-shirts, water bottles, etc.) to employees who get immunized.
5. Educate Managers
Encourage managers and company leaders to get vaccinated early and to set an example for their own staff. No matter whether vaccination clinics are on-site or in the community, or whether employees get shots on their own time from their primary care provider, be flexible with time off. It does no good to encourage employees to get the flu shot and then make it difficult for them to do so, besides covering an hour or so for every employee now is less expensive than covering the sick time later on.
6. Educate Employees
Influenza is serious, and the stakes are higher than simply being sick and losing time at work. The flu can lead to serious complications that require extensive hospitalization, and every year thousands of deaths are attributed to the flu. Anyone who is suffering from the flu is not only at risk of developing complications, but they also risk exposing those who are most vulnerable and likely to suffer the most serious flu-related complications to a potential life-threatening illness; specifically the very young, the elderly and those with already compromised immune systems.
You can find more information on influenza, the flu shot and flu clinics in your area here:
British Columbia: http://www.immunizebc.ca/diseases-vaccinations/influenza
And some useful poster, infographics and visual aids here:
If you would like to discuss the importance of flu shots and seasonal prevention further, you can contact us directly at BCL.Calgary@bclconsulting.ca, BCL.Edmonton@bclconsulting.ca, by phone, at 1-844-377-9545 or you can connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.