Open offices may be helping the flu spread, firm says
- This flu season could cost employers more than $21 billion in lost productivity, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The global outplacement and executive coaching firm revised its original estimate following the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) latest flu update. The company's original estimate was $9.4 billion, based on the 2015 - 2016 flu season.
- According to Challenger Gray, the trend towards open office spaces might be aiding the aggressive spread of the flu, which the CDC said hasn't yet peaked. Small, midsize and start-up firms are especially vulnerable because many favor open-office layouts, says the firm.
- To slow the spread of the flu, Challenger Gray recommends that employers keep workplace surfaces cleaned with disinfectants and have plenty of soap and hand sanitizers available. The company also recommends that each day workers wipe down brief cases, wallets, phones, phone cases, bags and wallets and refrain from shaking hands. A list of the company's other recommendations can be found here.
The idea behind open-office layouts was about fostering collaboration between employees and creating a less formal work environment. Knowing that this office design could aid in the spread of the flu could cause anxiety in the workplace, something employers want to avoid. Challenger Gray suggests that employees be allowed to work from home when possible, which is both a sensible and practical solution, especially for employers aiming to become more flexible.
Generally, employers may want to consider a policy that allows sick workers to stay home and recover. Paid sick leave laws are taking off in certain states and localities, most recently in Maryland, and will likely expand to other areas.
Some employers have adopted mandatory flu shot policies to prevent the spread of flu, but those policies are risky. To avoid the risk, other employers simply make access to flu shots easy by bringing the shot clinic to the worksite or allowing paid time off, for example.
- Challenger, Gray & Christmas UPDATE 2: Flu Season To Cost Employers $21B
- HR Dive With the worst flu season in 10 years, employers stand to lose $9B