(CIDRAP Business Source Osterholm Briefing) – It’s a race right now! And it’s between the H1N1 virus and our long-awaited vaccine. Unfortunately, as I write this column, the virus is winning. So will your employees’ best defense against the fast-moving virus ultimately win out? Possibly. But don’t count on it.What does that mean for your organization? In short, plan on functioning without the benefit of much vaccine—and brace for more illness and rising absenteeism. And as I have discussed before, if the virus undergoes any substantial genetic change, the situation could change at any moment. Remember to keep your response proportional to the severity of disease; it’s your best strategy.The current lay of the landI’ll save a thorough analysis of the H1N1 vaccine production and distribution dilemma for another column. For now, suffice it to say the vaccine supply has been overpromised and underdelivered. But we’ve always known that a plentiful supply of effective vaccine was a big variable. No surprise there. And with the severe cutbacks in public health, school systems, and the healthcare system over the past decade, the gaps in our ability to effectively distribute the vaccine should have been apparent as well.Meanwhile, we’re seeing evidence of illness on the rise throughout most parts of the country and the Northern Hemisphere. Will the trend continue? Is this a pandemic wave about to crest? Or is this pandemic like the one in 1957 which had both fall and winter peaks? I wish I could give you an answer. I can’t, and neither can anyone else. But I can suggest that you take steps now to protect your employees to the best of your ability and with the understanding that, outside the workplace, much is outside your control.I realize that some of these steps may seem like no-brainers, others may challenge very fundamental policies, practices, and customs in your organization, and some may seem out of the realm of financial possibility. But I urge you to give each of them serious consideration if you truly want to protect your most precious asset—your employees. And I’ll offer some ideas gleaned from some savvy business leaders who attended the 2009 CIDRAP Summit.1. Insist that sick employees stay home until they are not infectiousI’m sure we’ve all been guilty at one time or another of showing up at work a little sick. Few of us would be where we are if we hadn’t pushed past a little nasal congestion or an annoying cough to meet important deadlines. But this is different.True, thus far the H1N1 pandemic for most people causes illness that is like seasonal influenza. But for some people, including some of your workforce and even essential employees, H1N1 illness can be extremely dangerous. We don’t fully understand why yet. But anyone with an influenza-like illness should not be exposing colleagues to what may be an unpredictable pandemic influenza virus, no matter how mild the symptoms may be.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100º Fahrenheit or 38º Celsius) or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, a flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of fever-reducing medicines.You’re going to have to model this behavior yourself if you don’t want to give the impression that employees should do what they see rather than what you say.If you decide not to take this step, be sure to let everyone know that your company will not be following CDC guidance so there is no confusion, prepare for employee-relations issues, and know that a consequence may well be greater absenteeism than you expected.2. Ensure sick workers can stay home without fear of being penalizedThis is probably the hardest of the recommendations. But trust me, organizations who have adopted step 1 are figuring out how to make step 2 possible. As one human resources (HR) executive said during the summit, policies are designed to be big and broad and hard to change; however, protocols based on those policies can be flexible.Here are some of the ways organizations are tackling this step:Allowing employees to exhaust paid time off (PTO) hours and go into negative balancesAdvancing sick time up to a year of accrual (if, for example, the employee normally accrues 5 days of sick time per year and has used all 5 days, then you may want to consider advancing another 5 days)Suspending point attendance policies during the H1N1 influenza pandemicProviding a special time-off allotment for H1N1 Allowing employees to donate leave to othersFor more information on this step, please check out the 2009 CIDRAP Summit page, especially the human resources breakout presentations.If you decide not to take this step, be prepared for a form of “presenteeism” that will surely affect productivity and morale, and know that a consequence may well be greater absenteeism than you expected.3. Send sick employees home—consistentlyThe symptoms of influenza hit fast. So an employee can leave home feeling fine and arrive at work in terrible shape. And they’ll be extremely contagious at that point. I doubt they’ll be able to hide how sick they are or even want to hide it (unless they are worried about financial security). But they may not be able to get home easily. So they need to be separated from healthy employees immediately. All your supervisors need to know they are legally within their rights to send workers home and should apply the protocol consistently.By the way, this step also applies to you. Don’t try to gut it out. As someone with pandemic planning and response knowledge, you are vital to your organization, especially now. So don’t risk your own health, or anyone else’s.If you decide not to take this step, prepare for lower productivity and disruption from disgruntled employees, and know that a consequence may well be greater absenteeism than you expected.Bottom line for organizationsNo one knows if your employees will be able to get vaccinated in time to prevent becoming sick from the H1N1. No one knows if the current rise in illness is peaking or will continue to climb. So look closely at how best to protect your employees, even if the steps I’ve outlined push your organization past its comfort zone. Run a cost-benefit analysis if you need an objective measure. I think you’ll find the benefits are likely to far outweigh the risks.
Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comment (1) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. 0 Vote up Vote down Jaime Elmore · 238 weeks ago Great article – thanks, Tracy! Report Reply 0 replies · active 238 weeks ago Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Carter Burnett brings home an Eagle looking trophy after finishing second at the Tulsa Nationals last weekend. by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow â€”Â Carter Burnett of Wellington just celebrated his ninth birthday this week, and he is already making a name for himself in the youth wrestling world.Â Burnett, the son of Jason Burnett and Jennifer Doerge, recently came home from the 61st annual Tulsa Nationals with a second place trophy in the 8-year-old 75 pound division. The Tulsa Nationals, held Jan. 14-16 at the Expo Square Pavilion, was not your average youth wrestling tournament. It featured some of the best young wrestlers in the country – from Texas to Oklahoma to Iowa to Pennsylvania. Over 2000 young wrestlers from ages 4 to 16 years, representing 40 states participated in the three-day event. Burnett opened the tournament losing his first match of the day to an Oklahoma wrestler named Yocham 4-3. That threw him onto the consolation side of the bracket where he had some work to do. But he kept winning an worked his way up to fight for third place. That pit him in a rematch with Yocham. This time, though, Burnett came out victorious with an overtime victory. This was Burnett pinning his opponent to win second place as captured on a computer screen shot.The tournament has an option where a third-place winner can challenge for second, and Burnett did just that. R. Kucharczk of Virginia had placed second, but Burnett would win this challenge by pinning the 8-year-old in the first 36 seconds of the first period. Thus the transfer of second-place winnings went back to him. Burnett, who started wrestling in preschool, has had quite a year. He is currently 20-1 since November and has won tournaments in Ark City, Valley Center, Derby and Goddard during the early part of this season. He had finished fourth last spring in the Kansas State Youth Wrestling tournament.Â â€œIf you are not good, you donâ€™t go,â€ said Jeff DeJarnett, head youth wrestling coach of the Tulsa Nationals. â€œHe definitely is very determined to be the best and works hard. He is scared of nothing.â€ DeJarnett says he wrestles bigger and older kids at practice. â€œI would say he definitely has the heart of a champion and does not quit and gives you his all,â€ DeJarnett said. â€œHeâ€™s the best kid Iâ€™ve seen come through this program in a lot of years.â€ Burnett was greeted by his cousins upon his return to Wellington with his big eagle trophy.Burnett’s cousins greeted him home after his big moment in Tulsa.Follow us on Twitter.