Some may argue that a company’s Human Resources department plays a vital role in the prevention of the flu. How can that be? Does keeping employees healthy fall under HR’s job description? It may not, but HR is responsible for employee productivity and if you’ve got a workforce missing work days due to illness, that’s going to affect your productivity. The Centers for Disease Control maintains that “the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.” Since many people spend more hours of their day at work than away from it, a recent article from BNA found that Human Resources does play a key role in spreading the word about the importance of getting vaccinated. Not only does HR have a captive audience with their employees, they can also promote programs which make it more convenient for employees to get a flu shot. For example, a visiting nurse association can be brought in to provide shots on-site and at no cost. Companies can also help spread the word to their employees about the flu and the success of the flu shot. Many companies already have communication vehicles in place to educate employees, so why not use them to educate employees about flu shots? This can be done through a company newsletter, the company intranet, flyers, during meetings, etc.
Employers getting involved in their employee’s medical health brings up an interesting question – what oversteps into the employee’s personal business? In government we have the separation of “church and state” to protect the line; should there also be a separation between employer and employee? Where should the line be drawn between where the employer gets involved in personal health topics and what an employee does personally? The answer is yes, there should definitely be a line, and HIPAA protects that line. But, can we educate employees and give employees information about a health concern and let them make the decision? Wellness programs are similar in that companies may provide the information about weight loss, smoking cessation or exercise and while there may be an incentive to participate, it’s not mandatory for employment. In giving such health information, it’s important not to push our point of view onto the employees. Think education and stick to the facts. Stay healthy!