Do you have a plan for flu season?

The U.S. flu outbreak still has not peaked. The Centers for Disease control now says 48 states are reporting widespread flu activity - up from 47 last week. California was just added to the list. Bigad Shaban reports.
photo courtesy flickr user Payson web 2.0

(MoneyWatch) Flu season this year is hitting with a vengeance. Google's flu trends index  is showing intense flu activity across the country, at levels far beyond those of recent years. Obviously, illness is going to take its toll on any business, but there are ways to make it less awful, at least from a productivity perspective.

1. Don't scrimp on days off. Sometimes people come into work sick because they want to save their paid days off for vacations and to take care of their kids when they get sick. Figure out if your company's policy is encouraging this behavior, and adjust it when it is. If you think people will game a generous sick day policy, your best bet is to hire different people. One contagious person in the office can wreck a department for the next week.

2. Make remote work possible. If an employee is sick in bed, he's not getting any work done. But if he's home because he's caring for a child who can't go to school or daycare, he might be able to offer feedback on documents or take a call or two while the child is resting. It won't be a 100 percent productivity day, but if he's up for it, a 50 percent day is better than nothing.

3. Get serious about hand-washing. Yes, signs in the bathroom seem silly, but the flu is pretty awful, too. Or deliver little bottles of hand sanitizer to every desk.

4. Prevent it (next time). Smart companies already bring in someone to administer the flu vaccine to employees so no one has to leave the office to get the shot. Just keep in mind that if someone in your employee's family gets sick, your employee will still be affected because she'll probably miss work to care for that person. So encourage employees to get their children vaccinated (we try to schedule annual check-ups in the fall so our kids can get that year's shot without a special visit).

What's your plan for dealing with the flu?