Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure.” This practical adage is especially appropriate during flu season. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that each year an average of more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related causes. So to help keep your business up and running, there are a few things you’ll need to do to minimize the risks to staff and clients:
Operations and Personnel
The Mayo Clinic affirms that those infected with the flu virus can transmit it to others approximately 24 hours before symptoms develop and up to seven days later. However, the time to communicate a plan to staff members is before anyone gets sick. Your team is your most valuable asset. Thoughtful preparation and preventative measures to ensure the health of your employees will sustain business continuity and retain client loyalty. In the midst of an already difficult season for the spa industry, it is of utmost importance to keep your team healthy and informed. Here’s a brief list of suggested actions:
Take control of your schedule:
Forecast and allow for employee absences (personal illnesses, family member illness, school/business closures) during flu season, establishing policies for employee compensation and sick-leave absences (e.g., non-punitive, liberal leave).
Put together a list of on-call availability. If you don’t have access to on-call labor, find out if your team can work extra days or hours.
If you’re running a skeleton crew, consider a contingency schedule such as a 4 day work week or shorter operating hours.
Make sure that you have your team contact information updated and at hand. If possible, compile a list of both home and cell phone numbers plus personal e-mail addresses. This is a great way to post last minute open shifts.
When any of your team members manifest symptoms of influenza, send them home immediately. The more time they spend at your location, the more likely you are to expose the rest of your employees and clients.
Designate a phone number for your employees to call you or text you if they need to call in sick. Make sure to ALWAYS request details if it is related to influenza symptoms. You may need to organize special cleaning and disinfection of their work areas. Also, ask if the employee was in contact with any other team member.
Institute policies for prevention:
Promote respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette, frequent hand washing, utilization of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and proper application of disinfection products and surface cleaners.
Implement guidelines to modify the frequency and type of face-to-face contact (e.g., hand-shaking, shared work stations) among staff and between staff and clients. Also take into consideration delivery personnel who would typically interact with staff.
Encourage and track annual influenza vaccinations for employees.
Implement daily (2-3 times a day) cleaning and disinfection of areas where clients and employees spend a significant amount of time. Make sure that special attention is dedicated to door handles, tables, utensils, desks, phones, and keyboards. These areas may include the following:
VERY IMPORTANT: Read the labels of the products you are using for disinfection. Some products require longer exposure times before removal to effectively kill viruses and bacteria. See the CDC website for details.
Install sanitation/disinfectant stations at different areas of your establishment such as:
Entrances or “clock in” areas
Locker room areas
Spa café (if applicable)
If an area has been exposed to the flu, it is strongly recommended that you close it off and have it professionally disinfected by a trained third party cleaning crew.
This is a good time to replace your air filters with high quality products.
You may need to consider a plan to politely stop or deny service to clients showing any symptoms of influenza (fever, coughing, etc).
Review your policy about allowing the use of masks in the treatment room. Some therapists may prefer to use them as a precaution.
Show clients that you are serious about their personal safety by posting gentle messages in the locker room and at the front desk, such as “For your safety and ours, we have undertaken the following measures to help prevent flu-related illnesses: . . . .” This message presents well when placed in neat, attractive sign holders.
Before your treatments, briefly mention the cleanliness of your instruments by indicating how they are sterilized. You can also visually demonstrate hygienic standards by wearing and using disposables (e.g., face rest covers, gloves, masks).
Offer free brochures at check-out that feature advice about immune system boosters (e.g., vitamin supplements, hydration, sleep, regular exercise, meditation).
Provide easily accessible infection control supplies (e.g., hand hygiene products, tissues, and receptacles for tissue disposal).
You can communicate a clear clinical message without distracting from your clients’ enjoyment. In fact, your hands-on approach regarding the flu may actually help clients feel more secure, increasing their ability to relax during treatments.
Instituting a few precautionary measures can make a big difference for your business. It doesn’t have to be alarming or daunting. After all, spas are wellness centers, so maintaining a safe environment isn’t unusual. For more information concerning precautionary measures, please visit the following websites: The Mayo Clinic and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.