Presenteeism culture in the US means sick staff spread colds and virus at work

Presenteeism culture in the US leads sick staff to spread colds and virus at workIn the United States where taking a sick day is frowned upon heavily and where the annual number of holiday days are around half of that of the UK, going to work when you’re ill is almost a mark of dedication. However, for the unfortunate colleagues of those who display such martyred behaviours, trying to avoid cold and flu in the workplace has reached desperate levels, as nearly half of people in a recent survey would give up a vacation day to a sick worker to ensure they don’t bring illness to the workplace. According to the seventh annual cold and flu season survey from Staples, while the  workforce is keenly aware of the dangers as well as prevention tactics surrounding seasonal illness, personal accountability remains low, with nearly 80 percent of employees still going to work sick. This is despite the fact that employers increasingly appreciate that a sick employee at home is much preferable than one who has struggled into work.

This also means that employees have a ready-made exce when they get sick – it’s their co-workers’ fault. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of employees have caught a cold or the flu at work, and nearly one-third (32 percent) blame colleagues for getting sick last year.

Most employees continue to indicate a strong knowledge of the cold and flu, as well as prevention techniques, particularly managers:

  • Presenteeism vs. absenteeism: Two-thirds (67 percent) say an employee going into work sick, but not fully productive, is worse for a biness than an employee who stays home and doesn’t work when sick; this represents a sharp increase from 31 percent of respondents who said the same in 2014.
  • Prevention also prevalent, particularly among managers: 47 percent of managers typically clean/sanitize their work-related equipment on a daily basis, compared with jt 34 percent of all US workers.
  • Nearly half (44 percent) of managers called in sick when they weren’t, in order to avoid sick co-workers, compared with 21 percent of all US workers.
  • Awareness still strong: 58 percent know that cold and flu virus can live on a surface for up to three days, slightly up from last year’s survey.

The survey also looked at ways that employers can do their part to maintain a healthy work environment, as less than half (only 48 percent) of employees say their office provides disinfecting wipes to clean their work surfaces. To combat this, if employers aren’t providing these or other disinfectant products, 77 percent bring them to the workplace on their own.

As we outlined above, although most US employers provide sick days, too many employees hesitate to use them when they should; which is why 74 percent think employers should encourage workers to rest and get better when they get sick.

Knowledge is high but action is low – as year after year, workers don’t practice what they preach with regard to keeping illness at home. Seventy-nine percent of workers went to work sick last year, and workload pressures continue to keep them in the office. Nearly half (41 percent) felt there was too much going on at work to take a sick day, even though nearly three-quarters of employers (74 percent) provide designated sick days. The majority of employees abide by the notion of sticking it out, as more than half (52 percent) say going to work sick makes them “hardworking and committed.”

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