Can Working Remotely Reduce Flu in Your Workplace?

Who wants to be next to that person in the office who can’t stop coughing and sneezing? Avoid the germs and dodge the sneezing by working remote!

Last year’s flu season was the mildest on record, with record-low hospitalizations and a short season overall. Unfortunately, new virus strains have begun circling the globe and this flu season could be pretty brutal.  The holiday decoration and festivities have just begun at my house.  I don’t want to add fighting the flu to my holiday to do list.

Remote Workers Reduce Likelihood of Flu Being Spread

Brandy Fulton, vice president of HR operations at Citrix, and I spoke about best practices for remote work programs that give employees seamless flexibility to work from anywhere, and keep your workforce productive, healthy and happy this flu season.  Our remote workers can reduce the likelihood of the flu being spread.

“It’s common for companies to include formalized telecommuting as part of their business continuity plans for epidemics,” Brandy explained. The real benefit is for the common cold- a virus that you can’t shake and is extremely contagious. It’s important to have the technology & systems in place, as well as policies and guidelines to engage strong communication so that employees and managers understand and support flexible work.” For roles that do not require a “physical presence”, Brandy suggests the following:

  • Encourage employees to work remotely if they are showing symptoms or are in the “grey area”- I have a cough, I can work, but I don’t want to take the day off.

In the US, many companies have merged sick days & vacation days into “Paid Time Off” – or PTO days.  Many employees save their PTO days for a planned vacation and hesitate to use a PTO day for a “borderline sick day.”

Going to Work Sick

You are most infectious just before flu symptoms become visible. You infect co-workers, friends, and customers by going to work sick.   Employees should be encouraged to stay home from work when they are sick to help prevent others from getting ill even if they do not have personal time off or sick days available to take.

Encourage employees to take the day off, go to bed and don’t work when they’re really sick. Managers need to communicate that they care about their well-being and they’ll cover the work in the office.

Allow employees to work remotely to care for a sick child or partner. Employees are productive working remote and this enables work-life balance.

Allow employees to work remote if there’s a wave of flu hitting the office. The reverse is also true- some employees may want to step out of the germ infested environment to protect themselves and are comfortable working remote for a couple of days.

In addition, promote hand washing to help protect you from germs and ensure that there’s an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.

“Bottom line- its great to have remote work as an option when you’re not feeling 100%.  Nevertheless, trust and communication is critical and managers should encourage employees to “take the day off” when they’re really sick,” explains Brandy Fulton. Plus, flexible work arrangements and remote work programs are key in attracting and retaining talent.

Another Benefit of Working Remotely

Estimates suggest that over fifty million U.S. workers (about 40% of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time. Statistics like this make the case once again to benefit flexible work schedules and working remotely. During this time of year we should be decking the walls and kicking back and enjoying the eggnog not the cough syrup.  Does your company have remote work policies/guidelines in place or going to work sick policies? Does your company encourage you to work remotely when coming down with symptoms? Are you allowed to work remotely to care for a sick child or partner?  I look forward to your comments.

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Lisa Bonner

Lisa Bonner is an experienced change agent and Senior Vice President with Roberts Golden Consulting. She helps global Fortune 500 companies solve organizational issues and manage major changes to drive achievement of bold business objectives. Lisa is passionate about football, fitness, decorating and raising twin boys. Connect with Lisa.

Reader Interactions


  1. Angelo says

    I have to be honest, I never looked at remote working that way before. This is another advantage of working from home.
    Benefits of remote working does outweigh its difficulties. From cost saving to sick prevention benefits, I think it’s way much better to make it work than to continue with the in-house employees.

    • Lisa Bonner says

      Thanks for your feedback Angelo! I agree- it’s MUCH better for those with symptoms to work remote and keep the office environment germ free.

      • Angelo says

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, Lisa. I appreciate it.
        Awesome blog by the way. 🙂 Keep it up.



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