The flu isn’t just bad for the people who get it. It’s bad for business, too. When employees come down with the annual bug, business owners pay in the form of lower productivity and higher absenteeism. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the flu is responsible for approximately 111 million lost workdays every year.
That makes preventing or mitigating the risk of an outbreak in your office mission-critical.
According to the CDC, flu vaccinations are the single best way to protect against the flu. But some employees may resist getting a flu shot because they’re concerned about the cost, suspicious of flu vaccine effectiveness, or just plain afraid of needles. So what’s an owner to do?
“There isn’t one good way to encourage people to get the flu shot,” explains Randy Bergen, MD, clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente’s flu vaccine program in Northern California. “You have to meet people where they are. Some people are driven by data … With some people, you have to be more personal. I meet them where they are to see what’s going to be most effective for them — data or emotion, or some combination of the two.”
1. Share the Flu Facts
Some employees avoid vaccinations because they believe myths about the vaccine’s effectiveness, or that it can actually make you sick. “Vaccination, though [it’s] at best 60-percent effective, is the best means to lower the risk of catching the flu or, if you catch it anyway, decrease the severity of symptoms,” explains Amesh Adalja, MD, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The vaccine is most frequently delivered via a shot, but it’s also available as a nasal spray, so fear of needles needn’t be an obstacle. And since it contains an inactive form of the influenza virus, the vaccine cannot cause illness. Bergen explains it like this: “I tell [people] this vaccine is made in similar way to the tetanus vaccine, and how many people have gotten tetanus from a tetanus shot?”
Pro Tip: Bring in a health educator to share the benefits of the shot, dispel misunderstandings and ease anxiety.
2. Ease Cost Concerns
Employees are more likely to get the flu vaccine if they can do so at a reasonable cost. Share the facts about your company health plan coverage of inoculations and a list of in-network providers. Provide a list of nearby free or low-cost vaccination clinics for employees who don’t have coverage or who have family members who are uncovered.
Pro Tip: Allow employees to take time off during the day without a wage penalty to get their flu vaccines.
3. Sponsor On-Site Clinics
Make it easier for employees to stay healthier by hosting a free or low-cost vaccination clinic in your workplace, provided by a company like VaxAmerica, a local public healthy agency or your health plan. This option may also increase vaccination rates, and has the added benefit of reducing employee time off to get vaccinated.
4. Be Sensitive
While it’s reasonable to ask everyone who works for you to get their flu shots, it’s crucial to be sensitive to their concerns. There’s always a chance some managers and employees won’t want to get vaccinated because of religious beliefs or personal medical concerns. Coordinate your efforts with a human resources expert or your attorney to ensure no one’s rights are compromised.
Keep Employees Healthy and Business Humming
“A business owner, as a rule, wants to minimize absenteeism and maximize productivity,” Adalja notes. “Influenza in employees is not conducive to optimal business performance and thus promoting vaccination is a good business decision.”
This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and should not be considered as offering individualized medical advice.
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