Winter is Coming: 7 Steps To Help Keep Your Employees (and Your Business) Healthy in 2023

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

I’m sure that just a few minutes ago it was February. Suddenly we’re halfway through April, and before we know it we’ll be in winter.

As the mercury falls, so can a business’ productivity. Every winter, Australian businesses lose productivity due to illness. How much? Lost productivity due to colds and flus costs around $48M per month. And small businesses with less than 20 team members are often the hardest hit by unplanned absences, that’s why I coach my clients to keep their workforce healthy. April is the month when small business owners need to kick-off their defence strategy, battening down the hatches before flu season hits.

These are 7 ways I mentor my Tenfold clients to keep productivity up and sick-days down…

7 Steps To Help Keep Your Employees (and Your Business) Healthy

1. Offer a flu vaccine program to the employees in your small business 

The benefits of offering a workplace vaccine program far outweigh the costs, nearly halving the number of sick days and doctors visits your staff may otherwise take over flu season. Add to this a reduced risk of injury from sick employees trying to ‘push through’ and it’s a good investment.

Expert tip: try to roll this out in your business around the beginning of June, as the vaccine lasts around 3-4 months and flu season runs from June through until September… you don’t want those great effects wearing off before you’re out of the ‘danger zone’!

Of course, staff may choose not to have the vaccine, but by making it easy for them to access – whether you choose to bring a nurse to your workplace or organise a program at a nearby GP or pharmacy – you are increasing the chances that they will take part.

If you run a business that relies on subcontractors, like many businesses we coach in the building and construction sector, consider extending the offer of flu jabs to your subbies. By showing them you’re investing in their well-being, it could help prioritise your business when their services are in high demand.

2. Roster right

I coach my business clients to review their rosters heading into the winter months; it’s a prime opportunity to consider workforce planning. Issue your rosters with plenty of notice, giving your staff time to plan and swap arrangements if required. Also make sure that you have built in staffing backup options – this will prepare you for an outbreak if it hits.

A note about OHS: When designing your rosters, make sure that you build in break times and think carefully about overtime requirements; on the one hand, more hours can be great for your staff, but you also need to ensure they get sufficient rest and aren’t burning out.

3. Make sure sick people stay home

This is a big one. When employees come to work sick, they risk passing their illness on to all other staff and their families.  To make sure the dreaded lurgy doesn’t overstay its welcome, employees should take 3-5 days off from when symptoms appear. It is false economy to keep one sick employee at work when a short time-off will stop five more falling ill.

If possible, you can also offer the opportunity for staff to work from home if they feel well enough to work but may still be contagious. This can prevent the worry that they’ll be overloaded with work when they return.

4. Keep your workplace clean

Doorknobs, photocopiers, microwaves… think of all the places your staff and customers touch in your office or store – it’s a germaphobe’s nightmare! Make sure you up the ante on your cleaning routine. Just a little more elbow-grease and attention to detail can go a long way towards keeping illnesses at bay.

5. Provide personal hygiene supplies

The simple act of properly washing your hands with plain old soap is your best defence against spreading flu, viruses, gastro and most other bugs. Make sure your bathroom is stocked with soap and towels and for shared spaces provide hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and tissues.

6. Model a healthy lifestyle

I coach small business clients to walk the walk when it comes to making changes in their workplace culture. Prioritising your own wellbeing paves the way for positive changes in your staff too. You can promote healthy lifestyle choices by:

Consider organising a corporate gym membership discount, enter a staff team in a charity fun-run event or create a lunchtime running/walking group; there are lots of ways to get moving and work on ‘team building’ at the same time.

Eating right 
Make sure employees have access to healthy options at catered meetings and vending machines. Providing kitchen appliances like fridges, microwaves and sandwich presses also encourages staff to bring nutritious meals from home.

Drinking plenty of water 
You can’t overstate the importance of drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This can be as simple as encouraging employees to keep a drink bottle close by or ensuring a jug of water stays full in the fridge (cold water can be more appealing). If you have the budget for it, consider investing in a water cooler system. Adequate hydration flushes toxins out of the body, building stronger immunity. It also increases oxygen in the body, improving concentration.

Avoiding stress
Promoting good work/life balance, encouraging staff to take their annual leave (or even a proper lunch break) and practising good communication in the workplace can all help employees stay happier and less stressed – a great boost to the immune system.

(Bonus tip! Here’s great related article on mental wellbeing in small business: 5 Need-To-Know Triggers for Depression in Small Business)

7. An apple a day…

Fibre, vitamins and increased energy – a piece of fruit is like a battery to power your body! Place a bowl of fresh fruit in your staff room and encourage everyone to grab at piece. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to help staff stay well and show that you care for their wellbeing.


Bringing it all together

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Putting a few inexpensive strategies in place can save your small business thousands in lost productivity. Showing this level of care for your employees also goes a long way towards increasing staff retention and team morale… it’s a win-win!

Image source: pixabay