Everybody Freak Out! It’s Norovirus!

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Contagion (film)Do you work in HR? Are you freaking out about Norovirus?

(Seriously, you should freak out. It gives you something to do.)

I am trying not to be a germaphobe, but I was sick 2x in two months in 2012. I learned something that is true: Your employees aren’t washing their hands.

And while the norovirus makes for some good headlines, it’s also pretty gross. Some of your employees will probably get sick.

Here are a couple of things to remember:

  1. Quit misusing the word flu. All HR people should know and understand the difference between flu and norovirus. The flu is an upper respiratory ailment. You can (and should) get a flu shot and help to prevent the flu. Flu shots save lives. But you cannot get a vaccination against norovirus.
  2. Your hand sanitizer from the SHRM expo hall isn’t enough. Wash your hands. And ask your facilities group to clean your office with bleach if you have an outbreak of norovirus at work.
  3. Norovirus is a great, fake reason to take the day off. Since the virus is diagnosed through the examination of stool and vomitus, most of us aren’t going to require our employees to provide proof of an illness. But I think it is okay to remind people that you can only lie about the ‘stomach flu’ so many times before it catches up to you. Give people the time and space to be healthy, and set an example for the workforce yourself. You know what I’m talking about, HR people. Take a bona fide vacation day for a mental health day.

I think the most important thing to remember is that life is finite and tragic. We all die. But nobody should die from the flu or norovirus. Minimize the risk to others by reminding employees not to come to work. And I think it is okay to say, “I know you can’t afford to miss work. That’s too bad. If you are legitimately sick, I will help you find a way to a few days.”

People might start liking HR if we do that.

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