Can working in a virtual office protect you from the swine flu? Well, a virtual office won’t guarantee immunity from the H1N1 virus, but it may reduce your chances of picking up this fear-causing strain of the flu.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with input from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has developed updated guidance for employers of all sizes to use as they develop or review and update plans to respond to 2009 H1N1 influenza now and during the upcoming fall and winter influenza season.
“Companies need to plan for continuity of operations with a depleted workforce,” says Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “A little planning now will help ensure that our economy withstands whatever the H1N1 virus throws us this fall.”
Although the CDC did not specifically mention virtual office space, the agency did suggest strategies like telecommuting, flexible work hours and reducing employee contact with one another. These recommendations all lend themselves to employees working with virtual office set ups. With a virtual office infrastructure, employees can still collaborate on projects, receive phone calls and faxes through the corporate system, and otherwise drive productivity with less risk of a workplace swine flu epidemic.
“Businesses play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society, whether in regular flu season or during an outbreak of the H1N1,” Locke says, noting that businesses can help by setting the “right tone” within their companies. “That starts by letting employees know that if employees exhibit flu-like symptoms, they shouldn’t come to work. If an employee shows symptoms during the workday, the CDC recommends that that employee be asked to go home.”
In May, abetteroffice reported on Officescape’s solutions to the swine flu pandemic from a workplace perspective. We’ve also reported on Cisco’s positive results with its teleworker program. Could swine flu fears lead to an even greater rise in the virtual office trend? That would put companies like Officescape, Davinci Virtual and Cisco in a strong position to service companies looking for not only greater efficiencies and greener officing, but also a potentially healthier workplace.