Need to Prepare for Possible H1N1 Spread, According to Harvard Study
September 22, 2009
Only one-third of business owners believe they could sustain their
businesses without server operational problems if half their workforces
were absent for two weeks due to the H1N1 virus (also known as the
swine flu), according to a recent study conducted by the Harvard
School of Public Health (HSPH). The study, which is the result of
a survey conducted this summer, also found that only one-fifth of
businesses could be sustained for one month with half their employees
In general, the HSPH study found that more small businesses believe
they would be able to avoid having severe operational problems with
a reduced workforce as compared to large businesses. For example,
small business are more likely than large businesses to say they
could avoid having severe operational problems for two weeks if
half their workforce were absent; 40 percent of small businesses
were optimistic about this, as compared with only 27 percent of
"Businesses need to start planning how to adjust their operations
to account for greater absenteeism and to slow the spread of H1N1
in the workplace," says Robert Blendon, professor of Health
Policy and Political Analysis at HSPH.
While the study looked at business policies for handling a swine
flu outbreak, HSPH also gathered information on strategies for slowing
the spread of the virus if it becomes severe. For example, one approach
recommended is to attempt to limit contact between both employees
and employees and customers; however, the survey showed this might
cause problems for many as well. HSPH found that half of those companies
studied could make such changes for one to two weeks before running
Fifty-two percent of those surveyed reported that they fear there
will be a more widespread outbreak of H1N1 this fall-and eighty-four
percent reported concerns that the virus could negatively affect
The survey also looked at businesses' sick leave policies, and found
that approximately one in ten businesses surveyed said they had
made changes to their employee sick leave policies since the spring
H1N1 outbreak, and only a few (approximately 6 percent) that didn't
offer any sick leave before are considering adding this option for
the fall in the event of a serious outbreak.
Among those surveyed the most serious concerns were how to keep
employees safe in a possible outbreak situation (77 percent); coping
with a reduced workforce (59 percent); and planning for supply interruptions
Businesses report being interested in learning more about how to
support their business and employees in a serious outbreak. Interest
is highest for information about keeping employees safe (77%), coping
with a reduced workforce (59%) and planning for supply interruptions
Glass companies across the United States are starting to take measures
to ensure the health and well being of their employees. In Austin,
Texas, for example, Danny Davis, principal and chief operating officer
of Arrow Glass & Mirror says in just the past 48 hours awareness
and caution have been more prevalent.
"To try and keep employees healthy we've invested in a lot
more hand sanitizer," says Davis. "Also, if employees
even seem as though they are getting sick they go home right away."
He adds that area hospitals have been overwhelmed lately dealing
with the flu in general, so the more they can do to try and keep
employees well the better they will all be.
HERE for more information about planning for a possible H1N1
outbreak from the Center for Disease Control.
HERE for ideas for communication with employees about the 2009
H1N1 flu virus.
HERE for a list of eight ways to stay healthy during flu season
(and throughout the year).
Is your business taking any precautions to prevent the spread
of the H1N1 virus, or to prepare for a possible outbreak? Please
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