Survey: Small business took bigger hit from flu

NEW YORK (AP) — This winter's flu outbreak took a heavier toll on small businesses than it did on larger companies, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey of 679 companies by Pepperdine University and Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. found that small businesses lost an average $22,802 per sick employee, while larger companies lost $15,806. The losses equaled the impact of an employee's absence on the company's earnings.

Small companies took a bigger hit from the flu, most likely because they don't have as many staffers who can take on co-workers' responsibilities when they're out sick. Small businesses said sick employees were out an average 7.4 days. Larger ones reported that sick workers were out an average 3.6 days.

The survey included companies in the Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. database of businesses, and 679 responded between Jan. 14 and Jan. 27, when the flu season was at its peak. The companies had up to $100 million in revenue, but results were broken down between those with revenue under $5 million, and those above that threshold.

Workers at small businesses were more likely to work from home while sick. The survey found that those employed by small companies telecommuted an average of 3.5 days while they were sick. Workers at larger companies telecommuted an average of 1.6 days.

The flu hampered all businesses in their efforts to grow and hire. Ninety-one percent of the businesses that participated said the outbreak was restricting their growth opportunities. That was to be expected after companies reported that meetings with clients and customers had to be canceled because of the flu. And 97 percent of the participants said the flu was restricting their ability to hire.

The survey was conducted by researchers at Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. supplies credit ratings on small businesses.

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