5 tips from an expert on dealing with flu season

‘Employers need to be to be agile, they need to be flexible, they need to be a little more understanding’

5 tips from an expert on dealing with flu season
Even remote workers at home should take sick days, says a workplace expert.

Not only do employers have to be concerned about employees contracting COVID, but now that cold and flu season is just around the corner in Canada, they should implement similar steps to ensure the safety of employees at home and in the office, says Christine Beaudry, director of safety and risk management at Randstad Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

Q: What’s the first step to keeping people healthy?

A: “Keep well informed and rely on objective evidence to get the information because so many people rely on various social media platforms, where there’s a plethora of subjective opinions, and attempts to murky the waters.

“What I found very useful for my team is that we subscribe to government websites; we automatically get updates. There’s new tips and different recommendations so we keep abreast of what’s going on that particular week because it’s forever changing because of COVID restrictions.”

Q: What advice should employers give to workers?

A: “Reiterate to them [about] going back to the basics: ‘Clean your workplace areas, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds’ — specific tips that are published by health officials.

“[Remember that] there’s a lot of bacteria or viruses that live on cellphones because people use them all the time… and we leave it all the time on contaminated surfaces.

Christine Beaudry

“[Handshakes or hugs are] not the protocol these days; nobody does it, everything’s done mostly virtually.”

Q: What kind of employee communication works best?

A: “We have created videos, an eight-minute training video, on what to do to protect themselves, which everyone has to take prior to going into any assignment, whether they’re external employees or internal employees.

“For a lot of people, reading another email, it’s not going to be as effective than if you’re talking to the individual… before going into work; you take five minutes and say, ‘OK, guys, just a quick reminder.’

“If you hear it live, it sinks in a little bit better. Some people absorb it better that way and we are getting inundated with information.”

Q: How should flu shots be handled?

A: “Give individuals the flexibility of getting the flu shot, if that’s what they choose to do during work hours, because we all know that the health system is inundated and it might be either hard to get in outside of working hours or during weekends. And sometimes the supply is short.

“Have that flexible, that human-forward touch of how to accommodate your individuals.”

About three-quarters of workers reported they like to have flu shots provided by the employer, according to a recent survey.

Q: What happens if someone gets sick from the flu?

A: “The most important part for employers to remember is that they need to be to be agile, they need to be flexible, they need to be a little more understanding.

“A lot of the times people think if you’re working from home and you’re ill, you can continue working. I’m a big advocate to say, ‘If you’re ill, take the time to recuperate.’ You can work half a day if you feel like it but don’t feel obliged if you’re sick because you’re working from home [that] you should continue working, because that’s not going to help you or the employer because absenteeism will increase.

“[Cultivate empathy]: ‘We understand that you’re a mom, we understand that you’re a wife or you’re a husband, or you’re a sister of somebody that you’re taking care of that week.’ We’re really trying to instil that in our employees in order to alleviate anxiety and depression, because we all know that that also plays a significant role in getting ill or catching everything under the sun when you’re stressed.”

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