Sick daze

Fighting the flu at work never easy

Posted: Monday, December 12, 2005

The message boards on are full of cold and flu remedies. From gargling with baking soda to doing yoga positions, flu sufferers feel compelled to pass their bits of cold-fighting wisdom on to anyone who will listen.

While complete strangers are eager to provide you with this information, what is your employer's stance? If you're one of the fortunate employees at HSBC North America, the answer may surprise you.

Jennifer Macadlo, human resources manager for HSBC in Prospect Heights, Ill., says her company prides itself on taking the extra step in offering preventative health measures to its employees.

"In addition to flu shots, we offer a health and wellness program where employees receive on-site health screenings, mammograms, blood tests and physicals," she explains. "Once they've received their confidential diagnoses of health, employees can then take that to their physician for follow-up."

Germ central

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Of HSBC's 28,000 employees, 65 percent were reportedly enrolled in the health and wellness program as of 2004. Experts say that preventative measures such as these are the key to avoiding a nasty dose of the flu - or worse - this season.

This proved to be true last year when an HSBC employee was diagnosed with a serious heart problem. Thanks to the convenience of on-site diagnostic tests, the employee was able to be treated for the condition before it was life-threatening.

Unhealthy surroundings

Often times, the workplace can harbor germs, and, as a result, lead to illness throughout the office. Allison Janse, co-author of "The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerrilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World" (HCI, $11.95) says if you're sick, don't try to be the hero and come into work anyway. Instead, stay home and spare your co-workers from infectious germs.

"We're lucky because technology can help us continue to be somewhat productive if we decide to stay home and nurse a cold, however, the average person only gets five paid sick days, which is rarely enough if they are caring for children, too," she explains. "If you have to go to work sick, try to contain your contagion."

Feeling fine

Many times, workers feel well enough to get work done despite constant sneezing or coughing. That's why employees at Tandberg, a visual communications company based in Reston, Va., enjoy working from home without missing a beat. Each employee is equipped with video conferencing tools, so they can feel as though they're in the midst of a face-to-face meeting even though they are miles away and battling a cold.

- Lisa Radke

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