Why This Year’s Cold and Flu Season May Be the Worst Yet for Canadian Business

If you manage a business in Canada, the biggest threat to your company’s productivity this winter might just be the flu. Canadian doctors are currently bracing for impact in anticipation of a particularly difficult flu season, having ordered an extra 300,000 doses of flu vaccine in Ontario alone. In fact, Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott has predicted this year’s flu season will “likely be a bad one.”

You too should begin preparing your business so you can minimize the impact the flu has on your company and employees this season.

How the Flu Affects Business

Your employees are only human, and it’s expected that they will need some time off from time to time due to illness. As such, a few cases of the flu may not seem like a big deal. The numbers say otherwise, however.

In the United States alone, the flu costs an average of $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity every year. Absent employees mean reduced productivity but not necessarily reduced expenses. If your company benefits include sick time, you bear the additional expense of paying your employees to stay home.

Financial concerns aren’t the only problem you’ll need to deal with, however. When an employee is sick, others need to fill in for them. This can lead to low workplace morale. It can also make the workplace more dangerous, as employees step in to do jobs they’re not as familiar with or well trained on.

Workplace injuries also tend to increase when employees feel rushed and understaffed. If covering for absent employees means working longer shifts and overtime, safety risks increase while the quality of the work produced by fatigued employees may decrease.

Do They Really Know?

Like forecasting the weather, predicting the severity of flu season isn’t always an exact science. It’s easy to wonder how seriously you should take admonitions that this year’s flu season will likely prove brutal. How do they know? The answer is Australia.

Because of their respective positions on the globe, Canada experiences summer while Australia deals with winter. The two places then swap seasons, with winter and flu season creeping into Canada as summer breezes start to blow down under. Along with winter weather comes the virus that carries the flu. If that virus was particularly potent in Australia, it likely will remain so when it reaches Canada.

And potent it is. Australian health officials recently announced that the 2019 flu season started earlier than usual and has already claimed 200 lives. It’s also caused three times more hospitalizations than normal. If this same strain of virus makes it to Canada, the country can expect the same increase in deaths and hospitalizations that Australia is currently experiencing. It can also expect a noticeable uptick in sick days.

What to Do

The good news is that you can take steps to help reduce the risks that your employees will suffer from the flu and miss work as a result. The first is to offer paid sick leave and encourage employees to stay home when they begin to feel ill. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. The goal is to keep employees at work, but the flu virus often spreads through workplaces like wildfire. It’s better to have one employee out sick than have him share his illness and take five other employees out with him.

Hygiene also matters. Make sure your cleaning crew sanitizes frequently touched surfaces throughout your office. Clean bathrooms aren’t enough. It’s also important to wipe down doorknobs, light switches, copy machines and other surfaces that many different people touch throughout the day. Strategically placing alcohol-based hand sanitizers around the work area helps too.

Perhaps the best step you can take to reduce the flu’s impact, however, is to host a flu vaccine clinic. The flu vaccine is the best and most effective tool that Canadians have for fighting the flu. Unfortunately, anti-vaxxer campaigns and misinformation have convinced 11 percent of the adult population that vaccines are dangerous. It’s important that you post notices or provide information about the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine to encourage employees to get one. The best way to encourage vaccination, though, is to host a clinic for your employees and vaccinate them on-site.

Clinics work well because they are convenient. A clinic makes it easy for your employees to get a quick flu shot while they’re already at work, which means no extra trips or hassle.  And often, even with best intentions to go the drug store, employees often don’t make the trip. On-site clinic help ensure they actually get the shot.

Clinics also help create positive peer pressure. Some employees will be more likely to get vaccinated if they see their coworkers doing the same. Even better – some providers of on-site clinics may have the technology that allows your employees to book their vaccination time online.

There’s no way to eliminate the flu or its potential impact on your business, but there are ways to reduce it. Flu vaccine clinics are one of the very best ways to do that, and they’re easy to offer. At Workplace Medical Corp., we specialize in facilitating flu vaccination programs to make it easier for you to protect your workforce. Just contact us and let us know you’re interested in vaccinating your staff. We’re happy to help you protect the health and wellness of your employees and our community.