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Under the Weather: Preparing for Employee Health Issues

Christina Davis, Director of LMC People

I was SO excited for this week!!!! All of The LMC Groups' team members were going to be at our headquarters for our annual company retreat, and we had so many fun events planned. Sunday night I went to bed with a sore throat, and Monday I felt worn down but thought for sure it would pass. By Tuesday morning, and after three different people told me I should see the doctor “just in case” because I was flying up north on Wednesday, I went to the doctor. Result? Positive for type A flu. WHAT???

Even with that diagnosis and with the doctor telling me emphatically not to travel, I still thought I could med-up and make the trip. I’m a fighter!

But then I was told how contagious the flu is. I was told that I could infect people on the airplane, and beyond that, if I really loved my team, I wouldn’t want to infect them, right?

Right. Of course they were right. That’s why I’m at home, in bed, recovering. Did I miss the chance to be around my entire team (I work remotely as do many of us)? Yes. Am I still the only one sick? Yes – and that, my friends, is why the company is still up and functioning as a (healthy) team.

Much to my surprise and delight, the event was postponed to a time when we could ALL be together: not something I would have ever expected to be done on my account. Our leadership communicated to me how important I am to the team and that us all being together was the point of our retreat. Imagine how special that made me feel!

This experience made me think about how companies can best handle employee illnesses. Have you considered what you will do if an employee gets sick and cannot perform his/her duties? Outside of an off-site or large event, do you have a plan in place when someone calls in sick on a regular Wednesday afternoon? Deciding ahead of time will ease the stress and scrambling when it happens . . . and we all know it will happen.

Offering paid sick time off (or paid time off in general) helps employees make the decision to stay home and get better vs. coming in to work and possibly spreading their illness. Do you encourage your employees to stay home when sick, or are there subtle pressures on your employees to “power through” and show up regardless of their illness? Studies have shown that many employees feel the pressure to show up no matter what to ensure they keep their reputation of being a good, hardworking employee. . . which results in getting other coworkers sick . . . and the vicious cycle continues.

Further, encouraging your employees to take preventative measures is a smart business move, because--let’s be honest--germs/flu/colds/etc. are not going away. Have you considered paying for your employees’ flu shots? I have a client who does that each and every year and since he started, he’s seen a decline in call-outs due to sickness. Think of how much you are saving by spending a mere $25 per employee. Another out-of-the-box idea would be to provide up to two hours of paid time off for employees to see their doctors on an annual basis.

So the question is, would you rather have one sick employee, or the whole department? Encourage your employees who are sick to stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids so they can come back healthy, recharged, and ready to put their all into their workday.

As for me, I’m on day #2 of Tamiflu and working my way back to a full recovery so I can be an active, healthy, and impactful employee.

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