Keeping the workforce healthy, productive
Imagine if a significant number of the country’s labor force—about 41 million—got sick and had to stop working for a couple of days. This would not only mean loss of productivity in the workplace but also additional stress for the family who will have to take care of the sick while making sure the rest of the household will remain healthy.
“The economic burden of employee absenteeism has been well-documented, and employers now realize that a healthier workforce is more productive, happier and have lower stress levels. These people help cultivate the desired team environment and have lower rate of absenteeism,’’ explained infectious diseases expert Dr. Cecilia Montalban.
Montalban, who is also a member of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases’ Council of Advisers, added that aside from including nutritious items in the office canteen, scheduling annual medical checkups or setting aside areas for stretching and other exercises, a number of offices are now offering employees some of the needed vaccines.
Montalban said: “For example, flu is a contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily in workplaces. The best protection is getting a flu shot and in this regard, employers are now scheduling workplace flu immunization for their employees and in some cases for their families as well.”
She said employers must explain how serious any disease is for many people, especially the other members of the household. Severe flu complications often occur in children younger than 2 years, those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis), and elderly individuals.
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Montalban said: “Yearly flu vaccination should begin soon after flu vaccine becomes available (either using the trivalent, which protects against three strains of the flu virus or the quadrivalent, which protects against four). However, getting vaccinated even later can be protective, since flu virus circulates throughout the year and could cause sudden cases of infection.”
Since flu is an airborne virus that could land and linger on commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, stair railings, phone handset, computer keyboards, Montalban said frequent hand washing and wiping of surfaces can also become important practices that could reduce the risk from becoming ill from germs in general.
Montalban stressed: “Every one in the office should promote and create an enabling environment for healthy behavior. There are many approaches to developing a healthier workplace that is simple and low cost. Employers should be glad to realize this when they see the reduced cases of absenteeism among employees, reduced overtime to cover absent employees, and costs to train replacement employees.”
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