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Teacher Absences & Subs

We Survived: What Flu Season Taught Us about Employee Absences

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flu season at school

Tired of hearing snuffling and sniffling everywhere you go? I have some good news for you: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the 2016-2017 influenza season has already peaked and is on its way out. Of course, you’ll still have to contend with allergy season, lurking just behind the pollen-laden May flowers brought on by April showers.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the year’s K-12 employee absence data, courtesy of the Frontline Research & Learning Institute. We’ve compared the average number of illness-related employee absences to flu trends from the CDC to uncover how this year’s flu season has impacted the country’s school districts.

  Insight: The data indicates that illness-related absences are loosely aligned to influenza rates.
  Note: Influenza activity, determined by the percent of visits to outpatient healthcare facilities for influenza-like illness, is reported on a weekly basis by the CDC. The national baseline for this metric is 2.2%.

CDC Legend

Source for influenza activity data: “Weekly U.S. Influenza Report”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

*Significant dips in the avg # of illnesses corresponds to school vacation times (Thanksgiving and December holiday breaks).

As you can see, data from our absence management system shows that illness-related employee absences are loosely aligned to national influenza rates. Overall, as flu activity increases, the average number of illness-related absences rises as well. Of course, not every illness-related absence is due to the flu, but it’s still remarkable to see the clear rise and fall as the season progressed.

You may have noticed that the data doesn’t align perfectly; there are two weeks where the average number of employees plunges, despite peaks in flu activity. Those two dips — during weeks 47 and 52 of the year — correspond to Thanksgiving and winter break, when schools are out and staff are already off.


What about your district?

The absence data above is based on national averages from over 5,000 school districts and K-12 organizations using Frontline Absence & Time. But your district’s data may be quite different —perhaps your teachers are sick more often, or far less. If you want to compare your district to national trends, you can try our fill rate benchmarking tool.

Having easy access to your district’s absence data can give you insight into what steps you can take to reduce excessive teacher absences and increase instructional time. For example, if you know that your district’s absence rates are higher than the national average during flu season, you can take steps to prevent the spread of illness.

You’ll know to stock up on extra hand sanitizer in your schools, look into hosting a flu vaccination clinic and challenge your district to have even fewer illness-related absences during next year’s flu season.

To make this data even more accessible and relevant, dynamic reporting capabilities will soon be available within our absence management solution as part of the Frontline Insights Platform. You’ll be able to benchmark your absence data against national, state and similar sized districts to provide you with actionable insights.