Flu season presents a major challenge for businesses, so Paul Jakeway, Marketing Director of hand hygiene expert Deb, highlights four ways to reduce the impact of illness on productivity.

Winter is just around the corner – and with it comes flu season, meaning potential bad news for organisations. Minor illnesses are already a major issue for businesses, causing the loss of 34 million working days each year. However, this year could prove to be even worse…

The NHS fears that this winter could bring the worst flu season in history, based on infection rates across Australia doubling since last year. It might not seem a big deal to the UK, but the antipodean nations are often seen as an effective forecast for how much of an epidemic we can expect to face.

Four top tips for flu prevention

Employers and employees everywhere need to be ready for this, so here are our top tips for avoiding the flu this winter:

  1. Take Vitamin D supplements
A recent review of existing research suggested that supplementing food with vitamin D would prevent millions of cold and flu cases, and possibly save lives.

It is still an ongoing debate among experts, but they all agree with the latest guidelines for vitamin D that everyone should consider taking supplements during the winter months to boost their chances of avoiding cold and flu viruses.

  1. Keep away from flu sufferers
We all know someone who has come into work dosed up on hot lemon to keep them going, even though they have a raging cold. Unfortunately for those around them, it would have been better had they stayed at home. This is because flu-containing particles exhaled by a sick person can travel at least six feet, which puts other workers at risk of infection and harms productivity across the workplace.

Even worse is the fact that some people are more contagious than others. Roughly one in five flu sufferers are what’s known as ‘super-emitters’, exhaling up to 32 times more virus particles than others. Employers really need to encourage their staff to take a day off when sick to avoid risking the health of other employees.

  1. Get a flu vaccination
For many, being vaccinated against different strains of flu each winter can prove an effective way to avoid falling ill. In fact, the number of flu cases during winter 2016/17 was reduced by 40 per cent thanks to effective vaccination.

The flu vaccine is a useful way to protect employees from illness over the winter – and protect businesses from the drop in productivity that results from sick days. Some companies even provide a free flu vaccination service for their workers.

  1. Clean and sanitise your hands regularly
People don’t realise just how regularly they touch their eyes, nose and mouth without even noticing it. Scarily, this is often how germs enter the body and how people become sick, with 80% of infections and viruses passed on by contact with the hands.

That is why handwashing is so important in the workplace – especially after using the washroom or in situations where workers handle food or contaminants. It reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, by up to a fifth, and this can have a massive impact on productivity.

Providing the right cleansing and sanitising products around the workplace can play a major role in reducing the rate of illness among employees – keeping everyone happy, healthy and working hard.

Prepare to prevent a productivity crisis

If a flu epidemic does hit the UK this winter, it will be a challenge that every business has to face. However, by following the four tips above, employers can maximise the chances of keeping their people fighting fit through flu season.