This fall, in a growing number of companies across Canada, workers can click on a link to a Shoppers Drug Mart page to schedule a flu shot for themselves and their family.
Morneau Shepell, a human resources consulting firm and one of Canada's leading providers of employee assistance programs and pension and benefits administration services, recently partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to give companies quick access to Shoppers’ online flu vaccine scheduler. These companies’ employees can then drop into their Shoppers Drug Mart store of choice for their flu shot.
This forward-thinking solution allows employees to better manage their time by providing them with the convenient option of getting a flu shot at their Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy, at a time that works best for them. It also makes it easier for employees to arrange flu shots at the same time for their spouses and family.
"Employers are increasingly recognizing how important it is to look after not only their employees but also the family of their employees," explains Marilynne Madigan, managing partner, health and benefits, Ontario at Morneau Shepell. "They're adopting a holistic wellness approach that takes into account the employee community beyond the workplace, and the program with Shoppers Drug Mart is a component of that broader employee wellness strategy."
The influenza virus disrupts workplaces across Canada each year, forcing thousands of employees to stay home because they're sick with the flu or are caring for a family member who's been infected with the virus. Their healthy co-workers, in the meantime, often end up toiling longer hours to help out while the company is short-staffed.
A Statistics Canada study in 2009 – when the H1N1 flu reached pandemic levels – found that in the month of November alone, 1.5 million Canadians aged 15 to 69 missed work as a result of the H1N1 virus or the seasonal flu. These absent employees lost about 20 work hours each on average, adding up to almost 30 million lost hours.
It's no surprise that many employers today encourage their workers to get their annual flu shot. Some allow employees to take time off during business hours to get the vaccine while others arrange to have flu clinics right in the workplace.
Companies can now go one step further by expanding their flu vaccine drives, as well as other components of their wellness strategies, to include their employees' families. By offering easy access to programs and tools such as the Shoppers Drug Mart online flu vaccine scheduler, employers can significantly reduce missed work days as a result of the flu, says Ms. Madigan
These efforts can make a big difference in a company's bottom line. A study out of University of Pittsburgh found that vaccinating employees can save companies between $63 to $95 per employee. The savings are even bigger when the flu shot is given early in the flu season – as much as about $701 per employee. When multiplied by the total number of employees in a company, this can add up to significant cost savings.
They'll also reduce "presenteeism," which happens when employees are physically present at work but are unproductive because they're feeling unwell or their mind is occupied by other matters, such as a sick family member.
Enhanced employee loyalty is another benefit of making the flu vaccine easily accessible to employees and their families, says Ms. Madigan.
"It does have an impact on employee engagement and satisfaction," she says. "Employees feel that their employers care about them beyond the workplace."
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