The winter months are the peak of cold and flu season. That means the season is just about over, right? Technically, yes. But year-round strategies to fight these ailments could pay off for most workplaces with group plans. You’ll want to make sure this perennial problem won’t permanently drive up healthcare costs.
The flu isn’t cheap. On average, 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu each year. An average person with health insurance will pay over $130 for flu treatment, while one-third of all flu suffers spend $250 to $1000 on treatment. Colds may be less costly, but more noticeable around the office. Adults average two to four colds per year and they’re not limited to the winter months.
In many ways, the cold and flu are similar. The cold and flu have overlapping symptoms such as headaches and soreness that can lead to secondary bacterial infections. However, as we all know, the flu is more pernicious, making the body temperature rise and causing fever and coughing spells. The common cold tends to stay in the head and sinuses. Yet, the flu will usually pass in less than seven days, while a cold can linger for a few weeks.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say “better safe than sorry.” Here are seven preventative strategies to diminish the dread of the cold and flu season in the workplace.
- Support Healthy Choices Year-Round
The peak months for the cold and flu are December through February. That doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about them outside of those months. Make sure your employees have access to healthy options at all times. Supply abundant sources of fresh water, ensure access to healthy meals, and offer vitamin supplements or immune boosters as optional treats. Encourage restfulness and hydration, as these are the most common treatments for the cold and flu. Such efforts are sure to make employees feel cared for.
- Offer Flu Shots in October
The vaccine is an effective preventative tool for avoiding A and B flu virus strains. While other strains exist, these are the most prevalent. If you decide to offer vaccinations to your office, remember that flu shots should be taken when a person is healthy, before flu season starts. The human body requires two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies against the flu. October is a good time to get everyone on board.
- Plan Sick Days Effectively
Sick people in the workplace should be encouraged to stay home to avoid the spread of illness among co-workers. Furthermore, they’ll need time to rest and recover. Taking this into account, why not plan ahead and renew an employee’s annual sick days in November? This way, everyone will have enough sick days available to get through winter.
- Boost Office Cleanliness for Cold and Flu Season
Both the cold and flu are airborne illnesses caused by viruses. Our hands also spread cold and flu germs by rubbing or itching the eyes or nose. Try to stop them at the source. As the season approaches, distribute antibacterial products and tissue. Remind your employees to wash their hands for 20 seconds. Make sure your office has adequate ventilation and temperature control. You may even consider adding cleaning support over the course of the season.
- Suggest Telemedicine Treatment
Doctor’s visits about the cold or flu may be as simple as making a phone call. Telemedicine is a growing option for non-serious doctor’s visits at a reduced cost. Educate your office about different telemedicine options available and make sure to include comparisons about the cost of visits and service offerings.
- Look into Wellness Programs
Some group plans offer wellness reimbursements to employees and employers for overall health and wellness. These may reimburse health conscious purchases for things like running shoes, classes, events, and community supported agriculture. Check your plan to see if any wellness reimbursement programs are available.
- Plan and Budget Accordingly
Once you’ve reviewed and implemented a health plan for the cold and flu season, take the time to include it in your budget and schedule. Consider communicating your plan to your office. Your employees are sure to appreciate the thought you’ve put into their well-being.
Remember, workplace health should be more than a temporary fix. Get creative early on to take your healthcare to the next level. In the long term, you’ll reduce group plan costs.