This year, the flu hit our country hard. While reports released last week by the CDC show a slight decrease in cases most recently, the flu remains at epidemic levels for most of the United States. If you haven’t been sick chances are someone you know has – including your coworkers.

Illness that prevents someone from coming to work can present a host of challenges for an organization. When it’s widespread like this year, the effects are even harder to ignore. Want to minimize the fallout? Here’s some ideas for both management and employees:

For Management

  1. Establish protocol. Make sure your organization has a clear policy for sick leave and then enforce it. This may involve requiring a doctor’s note upon an employee’s return to work. While the vast majority of employees won’t take advantage of paid time off, enforcing the rules will weed out the exceptions.
  2. Rethink your calendar. The last thing you need is people out sick when all hands are on deck for a tight deadline. To minimize the risk, consider scheduling big projects that require a full staff to healthier months like spring and fall.
  3. Strengthen your team. Look into cross-training employees so someone is available to take over an assignment easily. In addition, build a list of contract employees you can call on in a pinch. When illness strikes, ask healthy employees for temporary cooperation to get things done. This means you may need to be flexible with someone’s original assignments when they’re asked to cover someone else’s responsibilities.
  4. Be compassionate. While it can be easy to show frustration when key team members are out, showing compassion for sick employees can go a long way to a healthy company culture. Chances are the employee is stressed enough about missing work, so don’t make it worse. They’ll remember your attitude and be better team members for it.

For Employees

  1. Keep it to yourself. Toughing it out at work while you’re under the weather is not a sign of strength and your work will In addition, you could make others sick. If you’re running a fever or capable of spreading germs through coughing and sneezing, stay home. This is particularly important in an epidemic, when spreading the illness to others can do more harm to your organization. When you’re well enough to return, follow company policy and bring a doctor’s note if needed.
  2. Plan to be flexible. At the onset of the illness, you’ll probably need to rest. However, as you recover, you may be able to manage some of your responsibilities from home. If this is an option for you, be sure to be pro-active by offering it as a solution before you’re asked.
  3. Be transparent. While it can be hard to turn your work over to another, it may be the best solution for the good of your organization in your absence. Be willing to offer pertinent information if others are asked to take over.
  4. Step up when needed. When others in your department are out sick, be the first to step up and offer your help. After all, you earn your stripes when the chips are down. Not only will you build a good reputation, but others will be more willing to help you when you’re the one who needs it.

Our hope is that the downward trend in flu cases will continue.  However, being prepared for illness in the workplace is always a good idea. Regardless of what side you’re on, here’s to your health!

Mulling Corporation