When workers get sick, productivity is at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, every year the flu results in 111 million lost work days and costs businesses nearly $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity.

According to a 2015 Staples Flu Survey of 1500 U.S. workers, 53 percent of respondents say they go to the office even when they’re sick. They say that’s because: they’re too busy for a sick day; they feel pressure to “tough it out” and no one else can get the job done.

Luckily 88 percent of coworkers encourage sick employees to go home when sick. Still the same study shows nearly a third of workers and 40 percent of office decision makers think coming to work sick shows extra initiative.

But going to work sick decreases productivity and spreads germs.

Cleaning is a big part of preventing the flu. The survey showed less than 10 percent of workers sanitize their phone and only one percent sanitize their tablet.

Here are five tips business owners can take in an effort to be more proactive about illnesses in the office, especially the flu. 

1. Scrub up

Make sure all employees wash their hands with touch-free soap, use hand sanitizers and cover their coughs and sneezes.

2. Clean slate

Provide tissues to employees and give them antibacterial wipes to clean shared equipment like phones, keyboards and desks. 

3. Stock up 

Make sure bathrooms, break rooms and cafeterias are stocked with soaps, sanitizers and disinfectant wipes.

4. Promote it

Post signage around the office promoting proper hygiene and teaching everyone the different between a cold and the flu.

5. Use resources

The CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services websites and office sanitation suppliers have educational materials for offices.


With year-round healthy habits, employees can stay healthy. Many companies have corporate wellness programs to encourage healthy behaviors. Offering sick time and flextime may boost employee performance and morale too.

Companies need to assess if staff members are sick, do they have the right technology and access to work from home? Will supervisors and co-workers be supportive of the decision to work remotely? Evaluating wellness policies, developing good habits and being prepared for the flu and other illnesses can keep employees healthy and happy.