Pro Tip: It's Possible to Manage an Office Flu-Outbreak
It’s cold outside which means you and/or the people you work with will end up getting sick. Whether you’re the healthiest person in the world with an Iron Man attendance streak going or the person more prone to bouts with the sniffles, a good cold virus or bacterial infection will knock you down for a few days - and knock down a few colleagues, friends and family members if you aren’t careful!
With the colder months ahead of us (and pesky infections, germs, and viruses gearing up for their big season), you should make sure you have plans in place to accommodate sick employees so that your business doesn’t skip a beat.
First off, stay home if you’re sick.
Rule number one. Whether you’re the CEO or an intern on your first day of work, no good has ever come from an employee showing up for work legitimately sick. You probably won’t be productive, you’ll likely take longer to feel better, and you’re probably going to get someone else sick. If you’re feeling under the weather, if you have clear and noticeable symptoms of an illness (runny nose, a cough, vomiting or diarrhea), and/or if you have a fever, you should stay home and rest.
As an employer, you should be sure to encourage employees to use their sick time if they’re ill. Most people choose to power through illnesses because they feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to show up no matter what. Nipping that in the bud can save your business from being victimized by a health epidemic.
Create structures and systems so that an employee’s absence can be compensated for.
If you schedule shifts, make sure they’re staggered so that being short staffed won’t sabotage your business. Create action plans and make sure employees keep each other in the loop when it comes to projects and plans. This way, if someone can’t make it in, someone else can pick up the slack.
Successful businesses are system based, not people based. If you’re too reliant on any one person (including yourself, if you’re a business owner!), you leave room for things to go wrong.
If you work indoors, make sure floors are swept and vacuumed, bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected, and shared surfaces are wiped down. Encourage employees to maintain a clean workspace if they have individual workspaces. If you share vehicles or work trucks, make sure the interiors are clean.
And don’t forget the shared kitchen spaces, like the microwave, counters, sinks, and coffee machines. Germs and bacteria are all over and we can’t help that - but by leaving things dirty, you leave extra opportunity for someone to pick up something and end up sick.
Be careful not to overwork.
As a business owner, it isn’t your job to make sure your employees go to bed at a good time and drink plenty of water. But it is your job to look out for warning signs that people in your charge are nearing burnout.
Make sure employees are working within their means and taking care of themselves as best you can during business hours. Tired employees eventually become sick employees.
Plus, if you’re a business owner, make sure to take care of yourself! Don’t overwork and be sure to manage time off. You can adapt and plan for a day off.
It’s a lot harder to accommodate for an unexpected illness that leaves you bed-ridden for a week.
People will get sick all times of year, and there’s not a whole lot you can do if you’re not living in a bubble. But there are many things you can do as a business owner to try to prepare for sick employees and to avoid illness yourself.