Each year, employers in the United States lose an estimated $7 billion due to missed work and lost productivity because of the flu. In fact, approximately 17 million sick days are attributed to this illness alone. Flu season begins in mid-September and usually continues through the spring, and—in California—typically reaches its peak between late November and the end of February.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu symptoms include fever, cough, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing. There are several steps you can take to help keep this annual epidemic from spreading through your workplace. Those include urging workers to get a flu vaccine, frequently and properly wash their hands, and help keep the workplace clean.

The best defense is a flu shot

The CDC says early flu season (September/October) is the best time to get vaccinated—before flu activity really takes off. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to spur your immune system to build enough antibodies to avoid getting sick.

As an employer, you can encourage your workers to get the vaccine right away by giving them time off work. Or, if feasible, you can host a flu vaccine clinic at your workplace. You can also forward along information from your health benefits provider.

Good hygiene helps reduce the spread of flu

In addition to the flu vaccine, hand washing is another effective way to prevent the spread of the flu virus. Our video, Your Hands are Dirtier Than You Think, demonstrates the proper method for washing your hands. While at work, try thinking about how many other people have touched your office door. Think about how many touch the coffee pot handle, or the money you use to buy lunch. After watching the video, you’ll understand why the proper handwashing technique is so important.