How to Handle a Flu Outbreak at Work

Posted by Becky Squiers on Mon, Sep, 26, 2016

Office OutbreakYour office space is the definition of close quarters. Everyone is in the same space, sharing equipment and generally spending their days together.

That means when one person gets sick, it won’t be long until everyone else has caught the bug too. In a matter of days, you could have an office epidemic on your hands.

If you start to notice an outbreak of the flu—or any illness, for that matter—there are some things you can do to make sure you’re still able to do business efficiently out of your office.


Your employees—both ill and healthy—need to know what’s going on. When the chaos of mass illness hits your office, you need to keep everyone in the loop. The easiest way to do that is to communicate.

It’s important you communicate about everything. Inform your employees that a few people are out of the office. Remind them what your sick-day policies are. Educate them on how to stay healthy and stop the spread of germs. Let them know who is covering which tasks while people are gone.

All of these things are vital to communicate to your employees. Get everyone on the same page by letting them know exactly what’s going on.


If a lot of people are out on sick leave, you might need to step in and delegate vital tasks to employees who are still healthy. If Bob is responsible for covering Tim, but Tim is responsible for covering Janet, how much work does Bob have to do if both Tim and Janet are out sick?

Those are the questions to think about. Consider who is still available to show up to work, and who has offered to work from home. Prioritize the tasks you have queued up, and assign things accordingly.


The best way to stop an outbreak is to isolate the people who are sick. No, we don’t mean locking them in some quarantined room. But you do need to encourage them to stay home if they’re not feeling well. If they must work, let them work from home—but don’t allow them to bring their illnesses into the office.

When people at work start to get sick, it’s important to be intentional about keeping healthy employees healthy. Keep the office clean and disinfected. Sanitize shared equipment. You might even ban handshakes for a while if you have to.


When things get chaotic due to an office epidemic, teamwork is key to sailing through it. Flexibility helps as well. You’ll need to demand both teamwork and flexibility from your employees.

If you expect teamwork and flexibility, then you need to be a valuable resource. Support your employees. Provide the necessary tools that healthy employees need to get tasks done outside their swimlane.

Ultimately, you’re asking a lot of your employees to continue to do what you do in a crazy environment. Help them in any way possible, and let them know that you’re their biggest advocate in tough times.

Sometimes you can’t avoid an outbreak at work, and the best thing to do is face it head on. Other times—like during flu season—you can put yourself in an awesome position to skip the troubles altogether. One way to do that is to be sure a majority of employees have gotten their flu shot.

You can make flu shots an easy decision by bringing them into your workplace—and we can help. If you’d like to learn more about setting up a corporate flu shot clinic and avoiding an office outbreak, let us know in the comments below!

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Topics: Workplace Flu Shots


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