People tend to think of flu and the common cold as minor inconveniences. This is because most will get over them with plenty of rest and little else, and won’t even need to see their doctor. But for the short time when symptoms are in full swing, they can be a considerable hindrance, and stop someone from going about their regular life.
Health companies like ours, who are in the business of care, have a responsibility to practice internally what they preach externally. This means providing a safe and risk-free working environment, being accommodating to employees’ personal health circumstances, and going the extra mile to protect employees from illness.
This is why the seasonal flu jab has become a regular fixture on our company calendar, and is offered to all employees for free. But, as I’ll go on to discuss in this piece, you needn’t necessarily be in the business of healthcare to consider offering a company immunisation scheme. In addition to being a protective measure, offering immunisations through work can also help to benefit output, and your company culture as a whole. It helps to reduce employee sickness.
Let’s start with direct cause and effect.
The most obvious benefit of offering immunisations at work is that it helps to lower the risk of an office-wide epidemic during flu season. This then reduces the likelihood of employees having to take time off due to sickness, and this means fewer lost working hours and more productivity. Even employees who insist on coming into work, despite being under the weather, will still benefit; because the better you feel in work, the more you’ll get done.
And if overall team sickness is reduced, employees who don’t normally get sick will be able to get on with group tasks without interruption, because their colleagues are in better health.
It lets your staff know you value them. Some employees at the more cynical end of the spectrum could view offering immunisations at work as a ploy to rid the office of excuses come flu season. But in reality, no-one wants to get the flu and become ill; so for the most part, providing a flu jab lets your team know you’re looking out for their health, and their capacity to work and earn.
Staff who feel as though their health and well-being matters to their employer are more likely to feel trust and loyalty to them; which has a positive effect on company culture and morale, and in turn boosts productivity.
According to a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association, 91% of employees whose senior managers showed them support through wellbeing initiatives were more likely to ‘do their best’ (compared to 38% who didn’t receive this support).
The long term effect of this is that it can contribute towards employee retention; staff who feel valued by their boss are more likely to stay. In the same survey from the APA, fewer employees who received well-being support said they intended to leave their job in the coming year.
It enables employees to conduct work safely. We’ve talked about offering a flu jab enables employees to come into work, confident in the knowledge that their employee is doing what they can to make the work environment safer. But vaccination against domestic illnesses may not be the only type your business has to consider.
It’s common for companies to have some operations outsourced to foreign companies. Sometimes it may make better business sense to have offices in multiple locations across the globe. Where this is the case, important communication can’t always be conducted over email, telephone or video call. For some meetings, you just have to be in the same room; and this means travelling.
Different countries have different risks, but travel to some does require immunisation against conditions that aren’t as prevalent at home. Inoculation against typhoid and hepatitis A, for example, may be recommended if you’re travelling to the Indian subcontinent or South East Asia.
So while a flu vaccination is a consideration for everyone, more specific travel vaccinations should be offered to those travelling away; and financially taken care of by the company. Again, from a culture standpoint, it sends a positive message to your employees and lets them know you care about them. But unlike the flu vaccine, which isn’t a basic requirement for many, travel vaccines are essential, and enable your team to conduct business abroad safely. Offering travel vaccines on the company gives them one less thing to think about and arrange, and helps them to focus on the task at hand.
It raises awareness among clients and stakeholders. When you’re working closely with another business, be it as a client or a service provider, employees from your company and theirs will often come to depend on each other to some extent. With that in mind, the health and well-being of their employees is somewhat linked to your company’s productivity and outcomes.
One of the positive impacts of offering a company immunisation scheme and publicising it among your clients and stakeholders is that it gets them to take notice, and consider whether their own house is in order. If your scheme inspires them to put in their own in place, and lowers their sickness rate and raises their employee engagement rate, your productivity, as well as theirs, will stand to benefit.
It can boost your reputation as an employer. We place a lot of reputational value on companies based on what their employees say about them. If a company is perceived as a good employer to work for, we’re more likely to use them and do business with them. ‘If they treat their staff well,’ we think, ‘they must have a happy workforce. And if they have a happy workforce, they must make an excellent product or provide an excellent service.’
Offering or not offering a company immunisation scheme isn’t going to make or break your reputation (unless your business provides front-line care to the public, in which case it might). But paying for staff to get immunised against seasonal flu gives them another reason to shout about your business as one worth working for. This is something that may not benefit productivity straight away, but will contribute towards a positive culture (and in turn, better productivity) over the longer term.
The more desirable your company is as an employer, the higher the standard of applications you’ll receive will be when a new position becomes available; contributing, ultimately, to a stronger and more productive team.
Who can give immunisations? Doctors, nurses and even some trained pharmacists can administer them, and you may be able to arrange for a local service to visit your premises. Take a look at the health services in your area to find out more about the options available.
Dr Daniel Atkinson has been working as a doctor in general practice in the UK since 2004. He is GP Clinical Lead at Treated.com, and has a keen interest in the provision and development of digital healthcare systems.