The shutdowns, slowdowns, and social distancing brought about by COVID-19 have been tough on American businesses this spring and summer, making it harder to keep their doors open and introducing unprecedented challenges to organizations trying to support the health of their employees.
The coming twindemic
Unfortunately, the fast-approaching flu season is set to further complicate things. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 9.3 and 49 million people get the flu each year in the U.S. Combined with the nation’s 6.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, this winter has the potential to make the rest of 2020 look positively simple to deal with in comparison.
This "twindemic,” as experts are describing it, could lead to additional shutdowns and closures, not to mention driving employee concerns about their health, and that of their families. No matter what business you’re in, having a plan in place to support your employees and their health has never been more important
As soon as you have a solid plan in place, share it with your employees without delay and be ready to field questions. Effective communication is a two-way-street, and your employees need to know that their questions aren’t falling on deaf ears when they are in need of guidance.
Constant communication, and even resharing information, will go a long way to remind your employees that you care about their safety and health. It will also help to drive home points that you want to be sure your team takes to heart.
Emphasize the importance of flu shots
A critical step in protecting your employees is to encourage them to get a flu shot this year. While the flu shot will not protect them against contracting COVID-19, it will likely reduce the number of flu-related sick days your business experiences. Getting vaccinated for the flu is also a public service of sorts, as fewer flu cases translate to a lighter load on healthcare resources, easing the burden on doctors and hospitals treating COVID-19 cases.
For some employees, getting the flu shot may not be a priority. But for your organization, having as many members of your team vaccinated definitely is. With social distancing in effect and many employees still telecommuting, worksite vaccinations may present a challenge this fall.
Whether or not you choose to offer a flu clinic this year, it’s also a good opportunity to encourage employees to get vaccinated at their local pharmacy. Pharmacies are a fast and inexpensive option for flu vaccinations that accept a broad range of coverage plans and make it easy to get a flu shot without visiting a doctor’s office.
Whatever you do to encourage your employees to get vaccinated for the flu, communications should start early and be reinforced often. And given the prevalence of telecommuting this fall, it may be time to double down on communications channels that effectively reach remote workers – think email, text messages, and intranet posts – and deemphasize printed content like posters.
Have a plan for COVID monitoring
Since both the flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms like fever and cough, it can be hard to tell them apart. Testing is the only way to determine whether someone has COVID-19 or just the plain, old-fashioned flu, so you should understand how to guide your team members to COVID testing if they are concerned they’re coming down with something.
You’ll also want to emphasize the importance of employees calling out if they feel sick and staying home when they’re unwell. Soldiering through a workday while you’re sick is never a good idea, but in the midst of a twindemic, it’s an even worse one. Don’t leave your employees guessing what the right thing to do is here – instead, make it clear to everyone on your staff that saying home when they’re sick is the right thing to do, not just for them but for their co-workers and customers as well.
To learn more about how to develop a COVID strategy that works for your organization, contact Accolade to schedule a demo of COVID Response Care today.
Don't forget about remote workers
Do you offer telecommuting as an option for your employees? Since the virus hit, more people than ever are working from home. But out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind when it comes to your healthcare communications. Regular communications about staying healthy this fall and winter can help remind your remote employees that even though they’re not in the office, their well-being is still your priority
It’s also a good opportunity to drive home the point that just because they’re not being exposed to other commuters or co-workers doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods. Communications to largely remote teams can help emphasize the importance of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and other CDC-recommended measures that can help keep people safe wherever they are.
Take a look at our solutions page to see how Accolade can help you navigate the complicated world of conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic.