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A Dose of Flu Preparedness

WHILE IT'S common knowledge that a person is most contagious in the early stages of the flu, it's rare for workers to feel really comfortable staying home at that point, because they aren't really too weak to work. They may feel duty bound, guilt-ridden, worried about meeting a deadline, or simply hesitant to burn limited leave time. Sometimes bosses are complicit in creating this work-until-you-drop office ethos.

In the past, the cost of such a policy was little more than a run down winter work force. But in light of the highly publicized threat of a flu pandemic, businesses may want to exercise more control over their own Typhoid Marys and Larrys.

That's just one component of a flu-preparedness checklist from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The checklist has six components: planning for the impact of a pandemic on business, planning for the impact on employees and customers, establishing policies to take effect in a pandemic, allocating resources to protect employees and customers, educating employees, and coordinating with external organizations such as hospitals.

For instance, companies should devise guidelines that can be implemented at any time to modify the frequency and type of face-to-face contact among employees and between employees and customers, which might include changing office layouts or eliminating shared workstations. Before a pandemic strikes, companies might also enhance their communications and information technology infrastructures to prepare for increased demand for employee telecommuting and remote customer access.