It’s too early to tell how serious the flu outbreak will be this winter. But one thing is for certain, the flu season can have a significant impact on a company’s workforce. Every year, 10 to 25% of Canadians may contract the flu. Absences due to illness and employees coming to work sick can impact productivity as well employee’s ability to function at their full potential.

With companies facing these challenges, many organizations have set-up formal onsite flu immunization programs to safeguard their employees. According to a recent Canadian survey, at least 70% of Canadian Companies offer their employees a flu immunization program. Companies rate the immunization programs as the top two wellness initiatives – followed by smoking cessation. With flu clinics reaching the highest demand in October and November, many organizations are already planning in July and August to ensure they have access to the limited private vaccine.

Despite all these well planned efforts, companies report a dwindling number of employees electing to get the flu shot. A recent study from Statistics Canada reports: only 40% of people over the age of 12 actually get the flu shot. For those who don’t, the report cited the rationale as follows: 74% said “they did not think it was necessary”, 13% said, “ they had not gotten around to it” and 7% said, “they are fearful”, but the “fear” was not specified.

The reasons for people deciding to not get the flu shot are vast. Consumers are becoming much more educated and diligent in their research and much more critical in their decisions around immunization. “People are often afraid to get the flu shot’, says Meera Gupta, President of TLC Nursing, a Toronto based Nursing Agency administering the flu shot to corporations.“ The stream of information in the media and health news can be overwhelming and has produced uncertainly and fear in the minds of the consumers”, says Gupta.

As a result, companies are in need of improved strategies to increase participation and protect their greatest asset. A focus on prevention and holistic health are the latest trends for organizations.

Forward thinking companies such as TELUS, compliment their annual Flu Vaccine Clinic by providing holistic based options to their employee’s. In addition to the traditional pharmaceutical offering, several locations have begun using a natural Immune booster in lieu, administered by a Naturopathic physician. This gives team members a choice while educating them on the preventative measures important in fighting the viruses. The TELUS flu prevention campaign includes an awareness campaign in addition to vaccinations. It encourages team members to be healthy and adopt behaviors’ that will help them be more resilient to flu such as washing their hands more frequently.

“Cultivating sustainable workplace wellness initiatives through a more holistic approach to health is key to achieving a healthier workforce”, says Dr Jaty Tam, Naturopathic Doctor and Co-Founder of Well Street.

“Boosting the immune system and improving the body’s ability to defend itself against a viral attack is the best and most effective protection against all flu and cold viruses”, Says Dr. Tam. “The more employees’ have access to information to strengthen their health, the more a company can safeguard their employees’ health and their ability to be as productive as possible.”

With flu season lasting until April, companies will be in a greater position to minimize the negative impact of the flu on their workforce by offering their employees stronger prevention strategies. Information that encourages employees to be healthier and adopt behaviors through a more holistic approach to wellness is the best prevention and cure.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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