Fall is beautiful – dazzling colors grace the landscape, cooler temperatures kiss the air.

Then winter is on its way – cheery holiday music and bundling up in scarves and coats, hot chocolate….oh wait, and its flu season.

Sneezing, achy, miserable days stuck at home, missing work, falling behind, wreaking havoc on your home and work life.

For the small business owner with employees, flu season can be a problem on several fronts.

As the article, “Flu Season Is Here: How to Fight Illness at Work” looks at it certainly can be a costly issue to deal with.

According to the CDC, up to 111 million workdays are lost because of influenza at an estimated $7 billion/year in sick days and lost productivity. That is a lot of time and money.

But just because it is flu season, that doesn’t mean your work place, or you for that matter, needs to shut down. There are some things you and your employees can do to combat the flu ant all of that missed time.

They include:

  • Encourage flu vaccines – You can’t force your employees to get these, but you can encourage it, and get one yourself. Allow time for them to leave work to get the vaccine, a little missed time upfront will surely beat days of missed time later;
  • When someone needs time off for being sick, allow it – Some companies even send flowers or pizza to sick employees to show that they appreciate them keeping the flu at home and not bringing it to work. It’s tough for some people to ask off, but as an employer, it’s up to you to show them you approve;
  • Hand sanitize – Buy some extra hand sanitizer to put around your work place and encourage hand washing. If you can install hands free sinks and paper towels, you’re even one step ahead.
  • Discourage shaking hands – You can greet each other, and your customers and vendors, with smiles instead. Shaking hands passes on lots of germs that people really need to keep for themselves.
  • Be generous with parents taking time off with their sick children – Sure it’s hard to have employees out, but family needs to come first. If someone’s child is sick, let mom or dad stay home. Often they can still work from home, and encourage that.
  • Keep yourself well – If you feel yourself coming down with something, set a good example and go home and stay. Show your employees you value them and don’t want to get them sick. and you’ll be more productive getting yourself better than trying to work through the flu and making everyone miserable.

It’s a tough time year; the flu season can be brutal.

The best means is prevention, so encourage vaccines and keep the germs from spreading.

If it hits your office, let your employees stay home – a few missed days are much better than an internal epidemic.

About the Author: Heather Legg is an independent writer who covers topics related to small business, social media and health and wellness.