News for HR Professionals


'Tis the Season to Be Healthy: Preventing Winter Illnesses

Winter holidays summon up images of delicious food, sparkling lights and warm family gatherings. On the down side, this time of year also brings unwanted gifts in the form of sniffles, sneezes and fevers. Between runny-nosed kids at the mall and coworkers coughing over the potluck table at the office, employees’ odds of catching something nasty before the season is over are high.

They won't be alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of workers absent because of illnesses, injuries and medical appointments regularly spikes from December through March, and about 3.5 million people missed work in both January 2014 and January 2015 for one of those reasons. It's not all down to germs, either-stress, which can significantly affect your health, also rises during the holiday season. If you're feeling the pressure to finish projects by the end of the year with fewer days in the office to get them done, while also trying to make travel arrangements and create magical Pinterest-inspired holiday memories, you can bet employees are too.

An Ounce of Prevention

Fortunately, we're not completely helpless against the onslaught of holiday illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a list of basic precautions designed for healthcare providers that can be adapted for workers in any industry. Here are a few examples to share with employees:

  • Get vaccinated against the flu
  • Stay at home when sick and encourage ill coworkers to go home (especially important for managers and supervisors)
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as telephones and computer equipment
  • Avoid using coworkers' phones, desks, computers and other work equipment, or if you must, disinfect them first

You also can take steps to help workers stay well, such as stocking up on tissues and hand sanitizer to curb the spread of germs, and promoting workplace wellness programs, which are reported to reduce sick days by an average of 28 percent.

Use the digital marketing tools available through Nationwide's Say Yes program to share tips for wellness management, and remember that you have the power to ease employees' holiday stress by being mindful of their time-according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, scheduling holiday events during normal business hours and offering flexibility to run errands are among the ways organizations help their workers cope. And if all else fails and illness strikes, don't despair. With health insurance, you can be sure employees have access to the care they need to feel better soon.

Don't Forget Pets

People aren't the only ones whose health can suffer during the holidays—your employees' furry companions are at risk, too. At home, they may eat table scraps or swallow decorations that make them sick. Or, they can be exposed to serious illnesses such as kennel cough and canine influenza (also a danger for cats) while being boarded during an owner's vacation.

Not only are these incidents painful and distressing for both owner and pet, they come with a high price. In 2015, Nationwide® members filed $9.5 million in pet insurance claims for vomiting and upset stomach, and the company's claims data shows that other holiday-related veterinary treatment can hit employees' wallets hard as well. Average costs for common issues include:

  • Tinsel or other foreign object ingestion—$760
  • Poisoning from lilies, holly berries, rosemary or mistletoe—$527
  • Burns from candles or ice-melting chemicals—$173

As with humans, planning ahead is key to keeping pets safe and sound. Because it includes both preventive care and protection for the unexpected, Nationwide pet insurance is the best foundation your employees can have for such a plan. Take time now to make sure they understand their coverage and the wellness tools available to them, and they’ll be ready to enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season with the whole family.