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Build Your Career Office Life

Fearing Job Security, Employees Come to Work Sick

Fearing Job Security, Employees Come to Work Sick

Sick employees who try to fight through their runny noses and sore throats while on the job might seem like workplace troupers, but new research shows they may actually be suffering from a bad case of insecurity.

A new Concordia University study found that employees who were insecure about their jobs also were more likely to attend work while ill — making them present in body but not in spirit.

"Secure employees don't fear retribution for an occasional absence because of sickness," Gary Johns, the study's author and a management professor at Concordia's John Molson School of Business in Montreal, said.

According to the research, over six months employees reported trekking into the office three times while sick; comparatively, they called in sick and stayed home only about one and a half days in that same time period.

Some professions, including caregivers and people working in early education, showed higher rates of employees coming to work while sick. Those working on interdependent projects or in teams also showed higher levels of what the study refers to as "presenteeism."

"Often, a person might feel socially obligated to attend work despite illness, while other employees feel organizational pressure to attend work despite medical discomfort," Johns said.

Although companies have long dealt with issues of increased cases of sick days from employees , Johns said his research suggests businesses actually should be doing more to curb employees’ perceived workplace obligation to be at the office when they’re under the weather.

"Estimating the cost of absenteeism is more tangible than counting the impact of presenteeism," Johns said. "Yet a worker's absence — or presence — during illness can have both costs and benefits for constituents."

The full study, which included surveys of more than 400 employees, was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.