Give Workplace Flu Prevention a Shot

When most people think of Thanksgiving Day, they visualize turkey, football and family; I think of flu shots! For years before I was able to receive my flu shot at work, I relied on my father-in-law, “Doc,” for my shot. Doc convinced his family and 20+ grandchildren that getting a flu shot was a badge of honor.

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For many years, after the football game, just moments before the turkey was ready, Doc would quietly slip into the den and reappear in his “doctor” coat and latex gloves. Just the sight of that bright white coat and reading glasses on the tip of nose would cause anxiety, especially in his younger grandchildren. One by one, the oldest to the youngest would emerge from the den showing off their badge of honor, a super-hero Band-Aid. As we sat down to dinner, we said a prayer of Thanksgiving for a happy and healthy year, ready to take on the season!

Most people don’t have the convenience of a holiday flu-shot tradition. Thankfully, a majority of employers now offer flu shots to their employees and with good reason. According to flu.gov, “Nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu. That equals approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity.”

According to the International Foundation Workplace Wellness Trends survey results, most surveyed employers offer a flu-shot program, and nearly half of their employees participate in the program:

  • Over 75% (76.3%) of employers offer a discounted or free flu-shot program
  • 21% of employers provide an incentive to their employees to participate in the flu-shot program
  • Nearly half (46.1%) of employees participated in the flu-shot program.

Considering the flu can last from a couple of days up to two weeks, it is important for employees to review the number of paid sick days offered by their employer. The Foundation’s Employee Benefits Survey 2016 shows the following trends: 

  • Under 5% of employers offer less than 5 paid sick days per year
  • 50% of employers offer 5-10 paid sick days per year
  • 27% of employers offer more than 10 paid sick days per year
  • 17% of employers responded that the number of paid sick days offered varied.

The flu is very contagious, and employers and employees alike benefit by avoiding it. According to the CDC, “Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.”

How to Avoid the Flu – Recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • A yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older
  • The best time to receive your flu vaccine is between now and the end of October
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Frequent handwashing.

[Related: Help your workplace be prepared when flu season hits—International Foundation Flu Resources. ]

No one appreciates a co-worker bringing flu germs to the office. The CDC offers many resources to help identify whether you have a cold or the flu and when it’s best to see a doctor. If you believe you have been exposed to the flu, be sure to call your doctor and, if you can, stay home from work to avoid spreading the virus to your co-workers.

Earlier this month, as I receive my employer-sponsored flu shot, I thought of Doc as I earned my badge of health!

Teri Dougherty, CEBS
Teri Dougherty, CEBS
Research Analyst at the International Foundation

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