The all too obvious way to control the flu in the workplace

By offering employees "flu days," businesses can dramatically reduce the spread of flu in the workplace.

If you get the flu the Centers for Disease Control in the United States recommends staying home for 24 hours after your fever breaks. Unfortunately, for many workers that's not an option. But what would happen if it was and all workers had access to paid sick time?

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that giving all employees in the workplace access to paid sick leave resulted in -- surprise, surprise -- reduced rates of influenza infection. Using a modeling system developed by the school to simulate an influenza epidemic in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County, the researchers estimate that universal access to paid sick days would reduce the number of flu cases in the workplace by 6 percent.

And an even more effective way to reduce the flu in the work place? "Flu days," sick days specifically designed to encourage employees to stay home when they have the flu. If all employees have access to one flu day it results in a 25 percent reduction in flu infections through workplace transmission. Two flu days leads to a 40 percent reduction. Researchers found that flu days were most effective when used as a policy in large companies with more than 500 employees.

"These findings make a strong case for paid sick days," said Dr. Supriya Kumar, the study's lead author. "Future research should examine the economic impacts of paid sick-day policies."

While we don't have an economic analysis, the flu can limit working abilities of otherwise healthy adults by days or even weeks. That's a loss of productivity, but if businesses can limit it to individuals instead of entire teams or the entire company it seems like an obvious solution for employee health and the bottom line.

[via Science Daily]

Photo: Flickr/jessleecuizon

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