September 25, 2009
Has your employer told you what to do if you get swine flu?
Schools and colleges may be gearing up for potential swine flu outbreaks among their student body and staff. But in a survey conducted this month by marketing firm Mansfield Communications, 69 percent of working Americans polled said their employer has yet to utter a peep about swine flu prevention in the workplace and related sick leave or telework policies.
Instead, 84 percent of the 1,028 workers polled said they felt pressure to go to work sick, thanks to the shaky economy and job market.
Mansfield Communications also found that 80 percent of workers surveyed said they were "knowledgeable about precautions that should be taken if the virus reached their workplace." But 47 percent of those polled reported that they would continue to ride the bus, pick up their prescriptions, do their grocery shopping, and engage in other public activities if they came down with H1N1 and their employer forced them to stay home.
Mansfield Communications called this discrepancy "alarming."
(Curiously, 52 percent of men polled said they were likely to head out into the world with swine flu, while just and 43 percent of women polled said as much.)
We could probably debate the potential dangers of this headline-grabbing flu and its likelihood of spreading throughout our workplaces for months on end. Ditto for the likelihood that significant portions of the workforce could be stuck home simultaneously, caring for kids home from school due to swine flu.
But rather than hedging their bets and hoping for the best, employers have another solution: They can take the necessary steps now to implement an emergency telework plan, which incidentally, will also come in handy if employees are snowed in again this December.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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