Colds and flu are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. While there are three flu viruses, there are a staggering 200 that cause the common cold1.
Unfortunately, the workplace is the perfect breeding ground for these highly contagious viruses as they spread easily through airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes and contact with shared objects like door handles and keyboards2.
According to a study by Yale University, we’re particularly prone to colds and flu in winter, as breathing in cold air through the nose affects our immune system’s ability to fight off the rhinovirus that causes colds3.
How are bad are cold and flu for your business?
When colds and flu strike, it’s not only employees’ health that suffers but workplace productivity as well. Every year, around 150 million working days are lost as a result of flu and flu-like illnesses4. It’s among the highest cause of sick leave in the UK, costing an estimated £6.75 billion each year. And if employees do work while affected, it’s likely they’re not working at their best.
Is it a cold or flu?
The common cold and the flu share several symptoms, but vary in their severity. Flu is far more serious and sufferers are likely to be bed-bound for several days5.
Symptoms of the common cold include:
- A sore throat
- Congestion and a blocked and runny nose
- Mild temperature
Flu symptoms include:
- A high temperature
- Muscle aches and pains
- Dry, chesty cough
Flu symptoms come on quickly and usually last between two and seven days6.
Tips for prevention
The good news is that improving the welfare of your employees in the lead up to winter with a few simple steps could help your business survive cold and flu season relatively unscathed.
- 1. Promote good hygiene
Educate employees about prevention and enforce healthy habits such as washing hands regularly and using hand sanitiser7.
- 2. Offer the flu vaccination
Immunising your employees against the flu is the best insurance against the virus spreading, reducing incidence by 75 per cent8. But it’s important to do this every year, as the flu virus changes each winter. Bupa’s small business health insurance covers a company-wide flu vaccination9.
And when illness strikes?
Encourage sick workers to stay at home. Colds and flu remain contagious for four to five days after developing symptoms10. Reassure employees that taking sick leave is not only better for them, but also for the health of their colleagues.
The next step
To find out more about how you can prevent cold and flu affecting your business this winter, speak to our small business team.