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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
The colds and flu season is upon us. Have you had your flu shot? (Yes, I got mine last fall--as soon as my health maintenance organization started giving them.)

The most pressing question of the day is how many work days will your mill or company lose from among your employees who call in sick with colds or flu? Worse--how many workdays will you lose because employees don't call in sick, but bring their viruses to work with them and infect other employees? Although most employers provide sick days, many employees hesitate to use them when they should.

The office supply firm Staples has surveyed US businesses far and wide concerning this problem. Their findings show that while the US workforce is keenly aware of the dangers as well as prevention tactics surrounding seasonal illnesses, personal accountability remains low, with nearly 80% of employees still going to work sick. Nearly three-fourths of employees have caught a cold or flu at work. Nearly one-third blame coworkers for getting sick last year.

More than half of the respondents were generally aware that cold and flu viruses can live on a surface for up to three days, but less than half say that their company provides disinfecting wipes to clean work surfaces. Where employers are not providing them, 77% bring them to the work place on their own.

Two-thirds of respondents said that an employee going to work sick, but not fully productive, is worse for a business than an employee who stays home and doesn't come to work sick. Seventy-four percent think employers should encourage sick workers to stay home, rest and get better.

"Seasonal illnesses like the flu and the common cold wreak havoc on the work place, and the impact is even greater when sick employees continue to show up at the workplace," says Chris Correnti, a Staples vice president. "Managers need to lead by example and stay home when they are sick and both employees and employers need to be held accountable for keeping germs at bay in the work place by providing the right tools to maintain a healthy work place."

Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.

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