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Ugh-Choo! Flu Season Costs Employers Billions in Lost Productivity

It's October, it's cooling down outside, and that means only one thing. No, not football. Flu shots!

Yes, it's time to get our flu shots because the flu season is upon us. In fact, the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October.

The 1918 Flu Anniversary
Do you know that this year is the 100-year anniversary of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide? An estimated 675,000 Americans perished in that pandemic.

My parents were born not long after that time, and they would occasionally recount the stories their parents had told them about friends who passed away in the pandemic, and how sick some friends and relatives who survived that flu had been. It was a very scary time.

Yes, thinking about the flu is not a happy way to start the work week, but it's a reminder that the flu can be very dangerous, especially for children, the elderly, and those with certain health conditions such as asthma. Last year, the flu killed more than 80,000 people and resulted in more than 900,000 hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

No Flu, You Have Things To Do
I had my flu shot a few weeks ago (I get one every year). I felt vaguely lethargic for a few days afterward. I would describe it as feeling like I had a cold coming on any minute, but of course it never did. Trump would definitely label me as being "low energy". I didn't feel like going jogging, and walking the dog for 30 minutes felt like a good workout in itself. I felt blah for a few days, but I didn't get the flu. I'm glad I got my flu shot.

You may not have the same "blah" reaction to the vaccine, but it's a lot better than getting a severe case of the flu, which could knock you out of commission for up to two weeks depending on the severity. You have things to do, and you don't need a bad flu.

Your employer would prefer you stay well, as well: The flu cost U.S. employers more than $21 billion in lost productivity this past flu season, according to an estimate from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Even if employees came to work sick (ugh), they probably weren't nearly as productive as they would have been otherwise.


Making the time for a flu shot can feel like a hassle in today's world, but you have a variety of options if you plan to do it. Grocery store pharmacies, drug stores and urgent care centers represent a few good options. Perhaps your employer offers access to a flu shot clinic, or you can make an appointment with your family doctor if you have one. You could also contact your county health department for information about local flu shot clinics.

As is usually urged in regard to such matters: talk to your doctor. I'm certainly not a doctor, and you wouldn't want me to be one. I realize that talking about vaccines these days can make one look like the skunk at the garden party, but the flu vaccine exists for a reason. It's your decision. Just do what it takes to keep yourself healthy this winter, okay?


  1. Also, it would really help if all employers would follow a "please, if you are sick DO NOT COME INTO THE OFFICE!" policy and really mean it. Unless you work an "in-person" gig like retail or manufacturing, most workers can be just as effective from home.

    Nothing like being sneezed on by an over-zealous co-worker.

    1. Hah! Yes, please stay home if you're contagious. Everyone will thank you.


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