During the winter months, there is always a surge of employee illness. This often comes in the form of the common cold and flu.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was common to see employees attend the office and continue working despite having a cold or flu. Many would see attending work with an illness as ‘heroic’ or extremely hard working – also referred to as ‘presenteeism’.

Either this, or an employee feels that they will be judged or ‘looked down on’ for taking a day off work to recover from illness.

However, times have changed. Now, you will find employees complaining if other workers come into the office with an illness as they worry about being infected. The pandemic has found many people acting more consciously to illness, and rightly so.

Employers need to make sure that their business does not welcome complaints on this subject matter by acting consciously towards those with a cold or flu this winter.

How can you protect your business from the common cold and flu?

Encourage your employees to get the flu vaccine

Along with the COVID-19 vaccine, it is important for employers to encourage workers to get the flu vaccine.

Like any vaccine, it cannot guarantee 100 per cent protection from catching the flu but it should be a milder form if you have had the vaccine.

This vaccine is only offered free on the NHS to certain groups of people and privately, the vaccine can cost around £15.

Whether employees go ahead and have this vaccine is entirely up to them. However, making them aware of the benefits is something an employer can do.

If work finances allow it, you should also consider helping them out with the cost of this vaccine.

Encourage employees to rest

As mentioned before, the United Kingdom often has a big problem with ‘presenteeism’. This is people coming into work or working from home when you should be resting from illness.

We advise employers to encourage their workers to rest when ill.

Why? Because people tend to make more mistakes when they are ill. Not only this but they cannot recover as well if they continue working.

Presenteeism should not be an issue for the workplace and employees should feel supported when feeling the need to take a day off from illness.

Employers who do not encourage their workers to take a sick day or to rest often lead to a higher number of people experiencing the well-known tale of burnout.

Set by example

It is also recommended that employers take this same approach themselves. If workers see that even the employers prioritise their own health over the workday, it will only reassure them more that it is an important and necessary thing to do.

Maintain good hygiene in the workplace

Many offices have been adapted to stop the spread of COVID-19 over the last year or so. This should also be used to stop the spread of cold or flu.

Just because many are now vaccinated for COVID-19, does not mean you should lose the hand sanitiser stations and hand washing advice posters.

After all, if COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it is to prioritise keeping safe and healthy to prevent the spread of viruses.

Not to mention, this will also ease a lot of employees who are nervous about being in a workplace where germs can be spread more easily than in the comfort of their home.

Employers also need to ensure that regular deep cleaning is occurring in the place of work. With ‘hotspots’ like door handles and telephones being a priority to clean.

As people are returning to the offices after over a year of being shielded from illness, there is no doubt that the common cold may pay your workplace a visit this year.

However, with the new exposure to the cold and flu coinciding with the return to the office, employers need to ensure they are prepared.

We also urge employers to break the stigma of the sick day and support those employees who feel they need to rest and recover.

Do you need help implementing an effective people strategy this winter? Take action now.