Workplace wellness takes on particular importance as the cold and flu season begins. With the kids back in school and employees spending more time in closed-in quarters, it’s easier for germs to spread. You don’t want anyone to bring a bug into the workplace from home and risk infecting others. Not only does this lead to ill employees who miss work, but it can lead to a decrease in productivity. There are simple, effective, and affordable ways for employers to keep employees healthy.

Sponsor a Flu Shot Clinic

Speak to your insurance provider or local clinic to request help in establishing a flu shot clinic in the workplace. There’s no out-of-pocket cost to the employer to bring someone in, although the shots themselves must be paid for by you, your employees, or a combination of both. An in-office flu shot clinic can help encourage employees to get the shot before they become ill and miss work.

Encourage Wellness Checkups

As an employer, you can’t force employees to go to their doctors for checkups, but there are ways you can encourage it:

  • Provide time off during the workday for wellness checkups.
  • Distribute brochures or post flyers touting the benefits of a wellness checkup. Your insurance provider or a local doctor may be able to provide these materials.
  • Create a list of wellness centers in the area, including in-network urgent-care centers, physicians and clinics.

Establish Good Hygiene in the Workplace

The Better Business Bureau suggests establishing rules for good hygiene in the workplace. To encourage workplace wellness, put certain rules in place:

  • Suggest employees wipe down shared equipment after use.
  • Encourage employees to wash their hands in accordance with handwashing guidelines as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). Provide hand sanitizer dispensers for quick cleaning.
  • Advise employees to disinfect any surfaces that they come in contact with throughout the day.

Encourage Employees to Take Sick Days

Many employees forgo taking sick days when they are ill because they have deadlines to meet or feel they will be looked down upon if they miss work. However, this behavior may end up costing your company more than it would have if the employee had just stayed home to rest. Employees that come to work sick run the risk of slowing productivity and spreading illness to others. Encourage employees who are ill to remain at home until they are 24-hour symptom free or have a doctor’s note. For some employers, it may be possible to create a work policy that allows employees to work from home on days when they are only mildly sick.

Sponsor a Health Fair

If your business is located in an office park or a building with other companies, consider collaborating with them to sponsor a health fair to teach employees and their families how to remain healthy all season long and to discourage presenteeism. This fair can include information booths and presentations by health professionals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists steps to follow when you’re planning a health fair.

Workplace wellness is important. According to Forbes.com, U.S. workforce illness costs $576 billion annually from sick days and workers’ compensation claims. To minimize these costs in your business, encourage your employees to adopt healthy practices to remain well throughout the cold and flu season.

Sandy Baker is a full-time freelance writer specializing in health, personal finance and Internet marketing. Her long-term history online has included publications with companies including Marriott Hotels, The New York Times and dozens of other small and medium-sized businesses. She is also published in print with award-winning books such as The Complete Guide to Estate Planning, Complete Guide to Early Retirement, The Complete Bankruptcy Guide for Consumers and Small Businesses and The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care.