- The current flu season is the worst in 10 years, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, The New York Times reports.
- With 11 million employed adults expected to come down with the flu this year, employers stand to lose more than $9 billion in lost productivity, according to an estimate from consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The calculation assumes workers will miss four days of work for the flu.
- While 57% of people over age 65 normally get flu shots, only 41% of workers in their peak earning years (ages 50 to 64) get vaccinated, says the Times. And older individuals are more likely to be hospitalized than other groups. Those over 65 have the highest hospitalization rates, followed by those age 50 to 64.
The flu can take a toll on the workplace. It's easily spread and its symptoms can range from mild to severe. And when employees miss work, productivity takes a hit. When they come to work sick, however, the effects are often worse. That's an all-too-common occurrence, too; Staple Business Advantage's cold and flu survey found that 80% of employees came to work ill last year.
Employers often encourage employees to get the flu vaccine, offering on-site clinics or paid time off to get the shot. Some employers enforce mandatory policies but they remain risky, especially in light of recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforcement actions.
More cautious approaches include asking sick workers to stay home, allowing employees to work remotely, encouraging frequent hand washing and posting information about the flu around the workplace. The CDC offers such materials on its website.