Should Employees Go to Work If They Are Sick? 

During cold and flu season, it’s inevitable that people in the office will get sick. Every person with a fever, runny nose, sore throat, or cough has a difficult decision: should they stay home or go to work?  

Staying home is the best way to improve health and prevent others in the office from getting sick, bringing down workplace productivity. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of calling in sick. Although many employers are required to provide enough sick time throughout the year, people continue to attend work, even if they aren’t feeling great. 9 out of 10 employees admit they had gone to work when sick.  

Employees should never go to work when they are sick, so why do employees continue to risk coming to work and infecting others?  

Why Do Employees Go to Work if They Are Sick? 

There are several reasons why people continue to show up sick to work, even with the risks that come with it. Too many industries find themselves with workers choosing to go in over getting the rest they need. When this happens, it’s called presenteeism. Presenteeism occurs when an employee feels constant pressure to attend work despite being ill. Other reasons employees choose to go to work include:  

There is Too Much Work to Do 

In some situations, employees have many tasks they manage and need more people to back them up. They feel as if they have to go in to be able to meet deadlines, attend meetings, and ensure essential tasks are completed. Often they come in because they know there will be mountains of work to catch up on when they return.  

Not Enough Paid Sick Leave 

Although there are tax benefits for businesses to offer paid sick leave, companies are not offering enough paid sick leave for their workers. Some industries only provide the minimum as required by federal law.  

Others in the Office Come to Work Sick 

Colleagues feel the pressure to come to work sick when they see other workers toughing it out. It can feel as if they are weaker or not meeting expectations if they decide to stay home while others come in to do the work when they are sick. 

How to Encourage a Culture That Prevents Presenteeism  

Encourage your employees to take time off when they aren’t feeling well. Presenteeism can affect employee performance, bring down morale, and even cause loss of customers. It can put undue stress and anxiety on your employees, negatively impacting their mental health. If employees come in when they’re sick, they can infect other employees, causing them to bring home the flu or the cold to their families.  

Creating a workplace culture that prioritizes employee health can foster a culture that avoids presenteeism. When your employees feel comfortable staying home to rest, it can prevent presenteeism and promote a healthier workplace.  

Take a look at your company culture and evaluate your expectations. See where there are places where there might be evidence of presenteeism in the workplace and make some changes. Review your paid sick leave policies and ensure there’s enough to get through the year. Most importantly, have open conversations about the importance of taking time off to ensure your employees are in good health, mentally and physically, all year round.  

Ensuring you deliver a quality benefits plan that saves money, makes employees happy, and keeps you in compliance with State and Federal regulations. Outsourcing benefits administration with Kona HR can deliver peace of mind and a better benefits experience for employers and employees.  

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