This flu season has been particularly brutal, so it may be time to have an important discussion about this with your teams. Logic and reason would say “NO. Do not go to work sick.” But we know all too well that for many workers these days, it’s just not that simple.
For the past few weeks, our office has been a revolving door of illness and absences. The flu, sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia have each been visited upon us… and, in each case, well-meaning, hard-working employees stayed at the office, perhaps in denial, insisting the sneezing and coughing fits they had were related to allergies or seasonal sinus pressure.
But, invariably, this would be followed with the full-body aches, fever and the feeling of having been hit by a train – and then it’s too late… the other employees who share that part of the office started to fall like dominos.
Do we want to get the best out of our employees? Absolutely. Do we want them to drag their semi-lifeless husks into the office, come hell or high water, armed with tissues and cough drops? Heck, no! We want your productivity, not your pestilence.
Casual Friday with Hazmat Suits?
The reasons vary, but when surveyed about this topic, responses represented a tendency toward something between professional martyrdom and FOMO: demands at work, deadlines that could not be missed, not wanting to let coworkers down, job insecurity, fear they’d be forgotten, fear of being penalized in some way for missing work or being viewed as being less dedicated to the company.
When our stress levels have zapped us, invariably we’ll get hit with the latest strain of whatever is going around – there’s a struggle to decide whether or not to go to the office. Some workers feel they have to show up to prove that they’re REALLY sick, some want to show how dedicated they are, some just can’t afford not to get paid – but the biggest offenders of all are the 55% of people who say they come in because don’t feel like they’re sick ENOUGH to use a PTO day.
Like the Clash said, “Should I stay, or should I go?”
Consider staying home, especially during the time frame when you are most likely to be contagious. (This can last up to 5-7 days after symptoms appear.)
Think of it this way – there’s a reason schools have guidelines to send kids home when they have a fever, vomiting, pinkeye, lice, etc. – They don’t want the whole class to pass it around. This logic should follow at your workplace, as well.
For us at Movista, one of the great benefits of working for a technology company whose core mission is to enable companies to manage and work with remote teams is that you, too, can work remotely! Congratulations!
If you feel like you’re not necessarily dying, but that you also aren’t feeling that great – and you might be contagious – please do everyone a solid and work remotely. People will like you better for it. And you’ll like not getting an “accidental” disinfectant spray to the face.
What I’m hearing is that you enjoy living dangerously.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has some advice for those who don’t feel they have any choice but to go in:
“If you really must go into work, be conscientious of those around you. Fully cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often, disinfect areas you come into contact with—especially in common areas—and try to keep your distance from co-workers. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers as additional measure, but not a replacement for good handwashing.” Basically, just put yourself in timeout.
Leaders: Stay home when you are sick. Understandably that’s way easier said than done – but it’s important that you set the example for your people and that they feel encouraged and comfortable enough to work remotely, rather than turn the office into a hot zone.
You definitely don’t want to be remembered as Patient Zero in your office… that didn’t work out so great for Typhoid Mary, did it?