How We Can Use What COVID Has Taught Us to Combat the Flu Season this Year
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our world permanently and in ways we could not have even imagined. It has changed the way we interact, the way we work, the way we play, the way we live. It has forced us to think outside the box and to be creative in our approach to many things we once considered routine.
As we move from the pandemic to endemic stage and life begins to normalize to a world where we learn to live with COVID, we shouldn’t lose sight of the positives that have evolved during this period – and yes there are positives; every dark cloud has a silver lining.
So how can we take what we have learned from COVID and use it to our advantage?
In an attempt to remain solvent following the March 2020 lockdown, many organizations scrambled to figure how their employees could work remotely. Since then, working-from-home has been tweaked and modified making it a viable alternative to the traditional work setup.
Now, employers are considering what their new organizational structure will be. Do they continue with remote work? Do they bring everyone back full time? Do they adopt a hybrid model that combines the two?
Although the value of face-to-face interactions that occur in the workplace cannot be underestimated, there are some real advantages to remote work, especially as we head into the height of cold and flu season.
Medical experts are looking at winter 2022-2023 as particularly difficult as we face a trifecta of illness, COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The thought is that since we haven’t been exposed to a lot of infections since March 2020, contagious illnesses are going to spread quicker and hit harder. The result will be countless hours of sick time resulting in decreased productivity.
We know that washing or sanitizing your hands frequently, sneezing into your sleeve, wearing a mask when you’re symptomatic and socially distancing are all great ways of stopping the spread but perhaps the most effective approach is to stay home if you are feeling sick. In pre-COVID times, the financial impact of taking sick leave and the pressure of meeting work obligations often outweighed the risk of getting co-workers sick.
The remote workplace can be a gamechanger.
Instead of ‘toughing it out’ at work while starting to feel something coming on or returning to work while still symptomatic, working from home allows for continued productivity without spreading the illness throughout the company. A worker that remains at work when they begin to feel ill can infect co-workers and a worker that returns too soon risks a relapse which could result in further lost time. Even on a conditional basis, offering the alternative to work from home affords a worker the opportunity to engage when they can, rest when they need to and take the time to fully recover before returning to the workplace.
Employees that are vulnerable, immuno-compromised or are around someone who is, could choose to work remotely during outbreaks of infectious illnesses, protecting themselves and their loved ones.
Beyond sickness, there are benefits to allowing your staff to work from home in other circumstances that normally result in time loss from work such as:
- Attending medical or legal appointments for you or family members
- Caring for aging parents
- Looking after sick children
- Dealing with unexpected daycare issues
- Inclement weather and poor driving conditions
- Car trouble
- Unforeseen emergencies
Many of these situations do not require an entire day off. Remote work can allow for a partial work day, starting early or working late.
Employers that demonstrate they care about their employees and put the health and safety of their staff first tend to have greater company loyalty, longer employee retention and higher productivity. Despite concerns that workers may take advantage of working off site, if company morale is good chances are those that respect the privilege will outweigh those that don’t.
Every company and every workplace is unique and working remotely may not be an option for every organization. For those companies offering working from home opportunities, having a written policy in place that clearly outlines responsibilities, expectations and repercussions is a proactive way to avoid misunderstandings, miscommunication and mistrust and ensure it is a win-win for everyone.
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