Posted December 31, 2013 by

How Much is the Flu Costing the Workplace?

Doctor showing the word Flu on a chalkboard

Doctor showing the word Flu on a chalkboard. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Workers should do their best to avoid getting the flu, or else it could be costly.

The 2012-13 flu season was one of the most severe in the U.S. in more than a decade and according to a new study, had two to three times the impact over a more typical flu season on the workplace, school, family and other segments of people’s everyday lives.  A new report from Walgreens suggests U.S. adults missed 230 million work days last season, while children lost more than 90 million school days due to flu-related illness. By contrast, 100 million work days and 32 million school days were missed in 2010-11, according to the Walgreens Flu Impact Report.

The flu season is always unpredictable, and the impact it can have on individuals and families at home and in the workplace can be significant,” said Harry Leider, M.D., Walgreens chief medical officer.  “Last year, with flu peaking early, a lot of people weren’t prepared and as a result lost vacations and missed out on holidays.  This underscores the importance of getting a flu shot early, and our report shows more people are planning to do so, along with taking other preventive measures this year.”

Flu Impact on the Workplace

Nationally, the report suggests the flu-related cost to employers in 2012-13 was $30.4 billion, three times the $10.5 billion impact found in 2010-11, while employees who missed time at work due to flu-related illness lost more than $8.5 billion in wages. In addition:

  • Employees missed, on average, three days of work in 2012-13, compared to an average of one day during the 2010-11 season
  • 6.2 million Americans missed a business trip in 2012-13 compared to 2 million in 2010-11
  • Three out of four respondents indicated they were personally impacted by the flu last year


The term “germ-o-phobic” has become more mainstream in recent years, with the use of sanitizers on the rise and greater awareness around how germs and viruses can spread.  Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (60 percent) say they will take extra precautions to avoid the flu this year, including washing hands more frequently (87 percent), getting a flu shot earlier (51 percent), getting flu shots for family members (49 percent), limiting time in public places (43 percent) and trying working from home more often (11 percent).


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