Flu not only hurts workers, but reputation

Jan. 17, 2013 at 2:04 AM

CHICAGO, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A flu outbreak affects more than a person's health: Communities, schools and businesses are all impacted and judged on how they handle it, a U.S. expert says.

Dr. Mary Capelli-Schellpfeffer, medical director of Loyola University Health System Occupational Health Services, said sickness can interrupt productivity by creating a distraction and causing both the infected employee and co-workers to focus on the illness instead of their jobs.

It can affect how outsiders, such as clients and customers, view the stability of the company, Capelli-Schellpfeffer said.

"We know illness can spread from person to person causing entire work groups to be affected. But less obvious is how job performance, organization, productivity, creativity and financial stability can all be affected," Capelli-Schellpfeffer said in a statement.

"Encourage employees who are sick to use their sick time. Some don't know they have it because they've never had to use it."

People often think if they wash their hands or take over-the-counter medications, they aren't spreading the illness, but that's not true, Capelli-Schellpfeffer said.

"Just being in a room and breathing when a person is sick can spread the illness, not to mention coughing and sneezing. If you're sick you shouldn't be in the workplace," Capelli-Schellpfeffer advised.

She also suggested to:

-- Make sure employees are aware of the company's attendance policy.

-- Be sure your company has a plan in place to meet staffing needs if employees are out sick.

-- Beef up cleaning to reduce germs. Eliminate clutter on counters, especially around sinks and food preparation areas, to ease the job of wiping down these often germ-filled areas and promote quick drying.

-- Focus the company on health including having a prevention program that offers annual flu shots, informs employees about ways to stay healthy and what to do to avoid infectious illness.

-- Remind employees to wash their hands before meals and after sneezing or coughing.

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