Note: This article was filed by a paid contributor to Xerox Corporation.

For those of you who have kids, you know how stressful the start of a new school year is. On top of that, you also know your children are bound to bring home some nasty germs that will, unfortunately, spread around your home like wildfire. For those of you who do not have children, you are likely dreading the “Back-to-School Plague.” It may not affect your home life, but you know that someone is bound to bring it into the workplace.

As an employer, you do not want those same germs taking out your workforce. You work so hard to keep momentum and productivity high all year-round and then what? September rolls around, and you just have to sit back and watch as more team members call out sick or, worse, bring their germs into the office.

So, what do you do?

Here are four best practices for dealing with the back-to-school plague (and, eventually, flu season):

  1. Encourage employees to stay home when sick.
    The first thing you should do is encourage employees to stay home if they are sick. You should also support them if they want to stay home when their kids are sick (rather than send them off to school, perpetuating the cycle, because there’s no one else to care for them).
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    The CDC’s number one preventative tip for employers wanting to slow the spread of illness is to stay home when you are sick, so this is the best place for everyone to start.
  1. Offer paid sick days.
    In the long run, paid sick days will be worth it to you as an employer. This is not about giving your employees more time off. This is about offering people an incentive to stay at home when they are not feeling well, at greater risk of spreading illness around the office, and likely to be just as unproductive as if they were not in the office at all.
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    The only problem with sick days is that, as Wakefield Research uncovered, the majority of employees do not use them. 69% of Americans reported not taking sick days because they were afraid to miss work. So, where do you go from here?
  1. Create a flex work policy.
    Now, a flex work policy may be something you offer all year-round or only as part of your employee wellness policy. Regardless of when it applies, a flex work policy is an excellent way to keep the nearly three-quarters of employees who show up to work sick back at home where they belong.
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    The key to making this an attractive option is to create an official policy that covers all the bases:

    • Explain when it is appropriate to work from the office when ill. For example, at the tail-end of a round of antibiotics when contagion is no longer a concern.
    • Explain when it is appropriate to work from home when ill. This will usually be for minor colds—a runny nose, cough, etc. (or if the kids are sick).
    • Explain when a paid sick day needs to be used. This should be the case for all serious and contagious illnesses.

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    Not all tasks can be completed without the secure network of your office, so you will also want to define a specific workflow and approved task list for employees at home. Then you can create a workaround plan so that others can pick up the missing pieces in their stead.

  1. Use mobile-friendly technology.
    If your employees decide to work from home when they are ill or watching over sick children, you will want to provide them with tools that enable them to do so. Mobile-friendly technology (like print and scan solutions) and cloud-based applications are key to this. They allow your employees to work whenever and from wherever they choose—perfect for those employees stuck at home with a head cold.
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    Without those tools, you may find that the 69% statistic from above holds true for your organization as employees are afraid of falling behind even with the flexibility of working from home.

By abiding by the best practices outlined above, you can empower your employees to prioritize their health and give them the options and tools necessary to help you maintain a productive workforce and stop the never-ending cycle of illness that seems to plague every workplace when the back-to-school season hits.

To learn more about digital mobility and enabling remote employees, read “The Work From Home Revolution – Why It Works, and How to Make it Work for Your Business.”

 

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