What’s the one thing you don’t you want to hear coming out of the mouths of your employees (besides “I want a raise”)?
Flu season is here. It’s a miserable enough time if you’ve gotten sick. It’s even more miserable for your business if your employees are sick. It means lost productivity. It also means a less than positive environment when people are spreading germs around the office, making more people getting sick and leading to further productivity loss.
People still come into work when they are sick. There are many reasons for that: because they don’t want to be seen as goofing off, they have self-inflated images of their importance, or, and this is most likely the case, they only have so many paid sick days that they want to save for a true emergency or sick days are unpaid and they can’t afford to take time off.
Are you sick of the whole idea of sick days?
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Sick Days Are Not Legally Required
There are no federal requirements to provide sick time, and with a few exceptions (San Francisco, District of Columbia and Connecticut), there are no local mandates, according to Nolo. Yet, the general expectation is that sick leave is a benefit of the job like vacation time and paid holidays.
Even if it weren’t, you want people to stay home when they’re sick. So what’s an effective, affordable and fair way to do it?
Put Sick Days to Bed
NBC News notes many employers are getting rid of the whole idea of sick days and instead providing employees with a set number of paid days off to be used as they like; whether it be for vacation, sick leave or family issues. The problem with such PTO (Personal Time Off) policies is that employees might not wish to “waste” a potential vacation day being sick. They come into the office sniffling because they want to use that time for the beach. So some companies offer a certain amount of paid days off, which they may or may not distinguish as sick, personal or vacation days, but allow for people to take unpaid time off without penalty under reasonable circumstances, because well, stuff happens.
What about employees who abuse employer trust in taking an inordinate amount of “sick” time that begins to affect job performance and overall workplace productivity? Federal law does allow you to request a doctor’s note or some other proof of genuine medical issue. You always want to check state and local regulations to see how much legal leeway you have to investigate a suspiciously hypochondriac employee.
Let Employees Stay Home
Apart from how much sick time you give employees or whether you even call it that, perhaps the best way to keep infectious employees out of the office during flu season and maintain productivity is to let them work from home. What difference does it make if employees are emailing from a cubicle or a sick room at home? The difference could protect those who are in the office from those who shouldn’t, while still maintaining office productivity.
Keep Them Healthy
In order to keep your employees at work and healthy, consider providing health aids and incentives for well-being. Provide your staff with hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes for their desk and keyboards, and vitamin C packets like Emergen-C to encourage good health. Consider providing incentives for good health, for example, give employees 8 extra hours vacation if you don't use any of your sick days in a year, but make it clear that taking time off for being sick is not a bad thing. Making health a priority in your culture makes it more important to your employees, too.