It’s that time of year again—flu season. And, even though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is currently reporting flu activity as low, that may not be a clear indication of what’s to come. Seasonal influenza doesn’t usually peak until between December and February, and the number of cases doesn’t usually taper off until around May. That said, we all have a very long way to go, especially employers who must contend with higher-than-normal absenteeism and lost productivity.

Consider the following statistics from the CDC:  

  • As many as 111 million workdays are missed each year due to the flu virus.
  • It is estimated that the flu costs employers around $7 billion a year in sick days and lost/reduced worker productivity.
  • Businesses spend an additional $10.4 billion every year in direct costs associated with employee hospital stays, doctor visits, medicine, etc.

Besides urging (or even incentivizing) employees to get a flu shot, encouraging good handwashing, and allowing staff to work remotely, there’s one other preemptive measure employers can, and definitely should, take. What is it? Having a current and actionable Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan, of course.

COOP plans document how an organization will perform essential functions during an emergency situation or long-term. They clearly identify mission-critical functions and departmental communication methods, as well as alternate personnel, systems and locations. And, they do so department by department, division by division, etc. so that organizations (as a whole) can respond effectively to a variety of situations, including a flu outbreak, epidemic, or worse, a pandemic.

While the experts don’t seem to agree on the expected strain, severity or duration of the 2019-2020 flu season, one thing is for certain. There will be one; there always is. So, while employees are rolling up their sleeves, ask them to review their departmental COOPs. Doing so may give your organization the shot in the arm it really needs to fight the flu in the months ahead.


The CDC produces a weekly US map illustrating flu activity estimates by state. You can view it here.