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Onsite Flu Shots Save Health and Absence Costs
For a healthy dose of productivity, help employees to get vaccinated against the flu

By Carrie Getsinger  8/4/2014
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Each year as winter approaches, employers can count on at least one in every five of their employees calling in sick because he or she has the flu. Unfortunately, the flu doesn't care about job position or project deadlines; it attacks with no discretion.

Here’s the good news: This is one business problem with a ready-made solution. For a healthy dose of productivity, help employees to get vaccinated against the flu.

Offering onsite flu vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a proven cost-effective strategy that increases productivity, reduces overall absenteeism and prevents direct health costs. Consider that:

Each year in the U.S., flu is responsible for 200 million days of diminished productivity, 100 million days of bed disability, 75 million days of work absences and 22 million visits to health care providers.

Sick employees are simply not capable of performing at their best. Studies show that workers with flu demonstrate impaired performance of simple reaction-time tasks by 20 percent to 40 percent, which can increase the probability of error or injury.

During the flu season, flu is responsible for 45 percent of workdays lost and for 49 percent of low productivity days among working adults ages 50-64.

Flu vaccination lowered the risk of having to go to the doctor by about 60 percent for people of all ages, according to the CDC.

Flu-Related Losses

Here’s a hypothetical example of how flu could impact a company. Note that the figures below assume an average employee salary of $50,000 (in keeping with the latest U.S. median income figures):

Average cost of a lost workday per employee: $200.

Average number of workdays lost per employee due to the flu: 5 days.

Total cost of lost work days due to the flu per employee: $1,000.

If the total number of employees working at this company is 1,000, and approximately 20 percent of all employees (200) will get the flu in a given year, then the total annual flu burden to the company due to lost productivity represents a $200,000 loss. And that’s before direct health costs are factored in.

The average cost of a doctor’s visit is $154.55. If each employee who becomes ill with the flu at this company sees his or her doctor, the employer is looking at over $30,000 in additional expenses.

Ounce of Prevention

Organizations can help prevent this type of loss by making it easy for employees to get a flu shot. Each flu shot only costs about $25 to $29 per injection, far less than flu-related absence or direct health care costs.

Employers can eliminate a common objection to vaccination by offering flu shots onsite so employees do not have to inconvenience themselves by traveling to another location and taking time away from work.

Carrie Getsinger is director of client services at Passport Health, a provider of immunization and vaccination services, including onsite flu clinics, specialty physical exams, and vaccination records management solutions for public- and private-sector clients of all sizes.

Also see:

Fight the Flu with Onsite Vaccinations, SHRM Online Safety & Security, October 2013

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