It’s that time of year when your workers call in sick – and they don’t have to fake a raspy whine on your voicemail.

Flu season is upon us, and it has the power impact your frontline work schedule worse than the Monday morning after an overtime Super Bowl.

You might think you’re helpless against the flu bug, but you actually have a full complement of common sense precautions you can take to minimize the complications caused by absenteeism.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Clearly communicate expectations: An estimated 60 million Americans will contract the flu over the next few months, meaning that your workforce will likely be impacted. Make sure workers know and accept their responsibilities for calling in sick. If this involves contacting coworkers and personally getting their shifts covered, now is a great time to update and distribute company contact information.
  • Promote a healthy workplace: It’s about more than making sure you have plenty of tissues, soap and hand sanitizer on the premises. Let your employees know that if they’re sick – especially with the flu – that it’s OK to call in sick as long as they follow the approved protocol. Viruses can spread quickly in closed environments such as break rooms, kitchens and offices. The minor inconvenience of running the ship down one person can soon turn into the major problem of finding enough healthy workers to keep the business running.
  • Peer down your pipeline: When you’re managing around multiple absences and often working short-handed, it’s the ideal time to look at your recruitment pipeline. Even the temporary loss of a few key workers could signal that it’s the right time to ramp up your hourly hiring.

Hopefully, we won’t undergo an epidemic like last year, when the swine flu (H1N1)  heightened seasonal flu woes and worries. But the best practice is to assume the worse and make sure your team is ready to counterpunch the micro-organisms that gives us both literal and figurative headaches this time of year.