Skip the Handshake

Interviewing typically begins with a handshake. This winter, however, you may want to forego this formality.

Source: ahirao_photo / iStock / Getty

H3N2, this season’s strain of the flu, is particularly aggressive—and spreading rapidly.

Official Warnings

In fact, experts have issued warnings to reduce the spread of infection. At its website, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.”
Despite lost workdays and the cost of lost productivity, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas concurs.
“The current strain is particularly aggressive and those who are sick can be contagious for up to seven days. Workers who have the flu or need to care for someone with the flu should absolutely not come into work. This is exactly why employers have sick leave benefits,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Millions Affected

According to the CDC, more than 18 million people over the age of 18 suffered from the flu during the 2015-2016 season—and this season the number could be even higher.
“The 2014-2015 flu season was the worst in recent years, according to the CDC. This year’s flu season is on pace to be similar, if not worse. Employers should prepare to see a number of absences in the coming weeks,” said Challenger.

Proactive Approach

Employers need to enter flu season armed with information, as well as with a plan on how to prevent the virus from spreading through the workforce, according to Challenger. Employers should also consider ways to sustain business continuity in the event of an outbreak.
“One way to prepare is to make sure managers train staff on all responsibilities necessary to the functioning of the department in the event of team members’ absences. This will not only help prevent any lapses in work to customers and clients, but will also give employees the opportunity to increase their skill sets,” said Challenger.
The firm also recommends that employers consider expanding telecommuting and remote work opportunities if they begin to see the virus spread, thus stifling further infection.
“While sick workers may think they are doing the right thing by ‘toughing it out’ and coming into work when they feel ill, they are only likely to spread their illness, potentially further interrupting optimum business operations. Whether it is motivated by job security or a desire to continue making a contribution in an overburdened workplace, presenteeism, as it has come to be called, should be strongly discouraged by employers,” said Challenger.

Tips for a Healthier Workplace

Challenger offers some other tips employers might consider to help combat flu season:

  • Increase the number of shifts. This will reduce the amount of people working in the office at one time.
  • Limit meetings. If there is no need to gather large groups of workers in a confined space, then do not do it. Conduct meetings via conference calls or video conferencing.
  • Expand telecommuting. Determine who can work from home or other locations. This will keep people off public transportation and out of the office.
  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.
  • Institute flexible leave policies to allow parents to care for an ill child or one who is home due to school closures.
  • Provide no-touch trash cans and hand sanitizer.
  • Encourage employees to wash their hands frequently, avoid handshakes, and take other hygienic precautions, such as wearing a mask in heavily populated work areas.