Thursday, August 26, 2010

Staffing Continuity, Flu Shots and Workplace Wellness

I was asked by LifeWork Strategies to sit on a Flu Panel on September 2 with a nurse and a doctor from Adventist HealthCare. They've asked me to help send the message that flu shots are most effective when offered as part of a comprehensive wellness program. I hope you'll join us.

A recent study indicated that obesity is a risk factor for severe illness from the flu and, of course, the obesity rates are climbing. The CDC released a report earlier this month that said more adults are obese -- an additional 2.4 million. The report includes a statement from Dr. William Dietz that is particularly relevant to workplace wellness.

“Obesity is a complex problem that requires both personal and community action,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “People in all communities should be able to make healthy choices, but in order to make those choices, there must be healthy choices to make. We need to change our communities into places where healthy eating and active living are the easiest path.”

Working on our workplace wellness program is largely fun -- exercise classes, educational programs, and campaigns to inject some enthusiasm. However, it's also important to plan for the not fun -- events like a pandemic.

Last year with the threat of a flu pandemic looming large, we finally finished developing a staffing continuity plan. ASHA had a business continuity plan that was designed to help us respond to localized threats -- fires, bombs, riots, earthquakes and hurricanes -- that affect infrastructure already in place. We decided we needed to compliment that plan with a staffing continuity plan that protects employees and their ability to conduct business during a sustained crisis like a pandemic. (In all honesty, I don't understand why staffing continuity is not part of business continuity, but that's not my area of expertise.)

We started the process with a lot of questions. We expected that our members would understand a short term delay of service in the event of an emergency, but how would that change if we needed to seriously limit services if a large percentage of the staff was unable to come into the office over an extended period of time? What services would we want to maintain at a minimum? Do we have adequate cross training in those functions? Could the staff meet those needs even if they weren’t physically present in the N.O.? Are there things that ASHA can do to minimize the number of staff exposed to an illness or limit the spread of an illness between staff? What information needs to be shared with staff in the event of a pandemic?

We did our best to answer these questions in the plan below.

ASHA Staffing Continuity Plan FINAL

Update: September 2, 2010

Here are the slides from the event. I learned that if we could vaccinate 92% of our staff we could basically stop the spread of the flu within our workplace. We're no where near that number now, but at least we have a goal.

Update: October 4, 2010

Interesting post in the Your Health at Work Blog from Harvard Business Review -- Flu Vaccination Programs and the Bottom Line. The article states that a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh showed employee vaccinations programs save anywhere from $15 to $1,494 per worker depending on the type of the business and the severity of the flu.

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