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Sick Workers Getting Better at Staying Home

Sick Workers Getting Better at Staying Home
Credit: Mironov/Shutterstock

When deciding whether to come to work sick, more workers are heeding the advice of doctors to stay home.

For the first time in five years, the number of employees who said they go to work when sick with the flu has dropped, according to a new study from the office supplies provider Staples. Specifically, 60 percent of workers said they still trudge into the office when sick with the flu, down from 90 percent who said they went to work while sick last year.

Despite the drop, many workers said sick days just aren't an option. The study found that despite 88 percent of managers encouraging sick employees to stay home, 40 percent of employees said there is too much going on at work to stay away, and 31 percent said they show up sick because they think their bosses appreciate it.

"While we are encouraged that for the first time in five years the number of sick employees coming into work has dropped, 60 percent is still a significant number," Chris Correnti, vice president of Staples Facility Solutions at Staples Advantage, said in a statement. "Clearly there is still much work to be done."

The impact sick workers have on a company's productivity could be convincing more sick workers to stay home. Nearly 30 percent of the workers surveyed said that coming to work sick is worse for office productivity than a security breach, natural disaster or product/service issue. [What Workers Really Do on 'Sick Days' ]

Overall, most of those surveyed said presenteeism, which is when employees go into the office when sick but not fully functioning, is a bigger problem than employees missing work due to illness.

The study revealed that 36 percent of workers say their personal productivity is less than half of their usual level when they show up for work sick.

Major virus outbreaks, like the recent enterovirus, could also be contributing to the number of sick workers electing to stay home. More than half of the employees surveyed said they plan on taking extra precautions to protect themselves against the flu and other illness this winter.

"Recent outbreaks such as enterovirus in the U.S. underscore the importance of fostering a culture of workplace wellness," Correnti said.

To help businesses create healthier workplaces, Staples offers several tips, including:

  • Telecommuting options: Businesses should consider offering employees who are adamant about working while sick the option to log in from home. However, knowing how much productivity drops when a worker is ill, companies should also encourage sick employees to stay home and completely log off until they feel better.
  • Cleaning supplies: Businesses should provide employees with some of the tools they need to keep germs from spreading, like touch-free restroom features, hand sanitizers in common areas and sanitizing wipes on each desk.
  • Education: Companies should educate employees each year on how often they should clean their desks, how long to stay home when sick and what areas in the office need to be frequently disinfected, such as door handles and elevator buttons.
  • Hand washing: Employers should encourage workers to frequently wash their hands.

 The study was based on surveys of 1,500 U.S. office workers. All respondents were working full time and spent at least 50 percent of their time working in an office

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based 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.