Coming to work sick

February 10, 2009
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Now that smokers are mostly banished to the outdoors, thereâ??s a new work place pariah â?? those who show up coughing, sneezing and otherwise obviously sick.

In the not-so-recent past, failing to make it to work while under the weather could be interpreted as a lack of work ethic. Or, particularly in small organizations, lack of team spirit.

But at least three factors are changing the social contract, says Karl Ahlrichs, a veteran human resources executive who recently founded ExactHire, a business system that aims to produce a high-performing worker culture.

Companies took a more active role in managing worker health, with one upshot being workersâ?? resenting others who could infect them. Also, the bird flu scare produced conferences and workshops emphasizing cleanliness. And the proliferation of high-speed Internet access allowed more people to telecommute when they didnâ??t feel well.

As a result, showing up sick is now considered bad judgment.

â??Itâ??s seen as not caring. Itâ??s seen as not being a considerate person,â?? Ahlrichs said. â??You donâ??t make other people sick.â??

What do you think?
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  • I have always found it very inconsiderate for people to show up at work sick. I have asked people who are sick to leave my office, suggesting that any conversation needed could be handled via telephone or e-mail. It's too bad that a lot of employers frown on missing work when you are truly contagious.
  • I've always had trouble deciding whether to go to work or stay home when I am ill. I almost never feel awful, so should I stay home if I am sneezing or coughing but feel fairly good? Won't my co-workers get germs from their kids anyway?
  • I disagree! With the amount of layoffs surrounding me lately, I am doing everything I can to be at work - sick or not. I am the breadwinner in my family, and don't need to be replaced with someone with perfect attendance. These days, the Company thinks only in numbers (Employee A missed 3 days so far this year and we had to pay Employee B extra to cover A's duties while still paying A to be home; it will be cheaper for the Company to just pay Employee B and let Employee A go). No, thank you! Wash your hands often and stop complaining - be thankful you still have a job!
  • Thursday Jan 29th of this year, I had a bad eye infection in my left eye and was told by my doctor and boss to stay home until the eye is non contagious. I was ok with that because I use my hands and eyes for my job and it was a strain to see that day. I would rather stay home if I am infectious or have any major physical sicknesses that could harm others. I am lucky that my boss didn't expect me there when I am ill.

    Other places like Retail (Meijer and Walmart for example), the Manager in charge will try to pressure you into going, even if you are way too sick to be out of your own bed.

    Reguardless, I feel that health should come first. If you (or your child-ren-) are truly sick, you should take care of that first, and then other obligations.
  • I disagree. While in theory it's better to stay home if you're truly sick so as not to pass it around, with today's job market, many people are scared to take a sick day -- no matter how needed -- for fear they'll stick out as not totally devoted to their jobs. Plus, some companies are cutting sick days in order to save money. A friend's company cut paid sick time from 5 to 2 days per year.
  • Have to agree with SusieQ on this one. While I certainly do believe that a person should stay home when sick rather than coming to work and potentially making others sick, my boss does not feel the same. Compounding the matter, my bosses are from China and apparently they are accustomed to even less of an accomodating workplace. I can't even recount the times that they have casually mentioned the differences between Asian and American work ethic. When I am sick, even if I am actually sick enough to justify an absence from work, I am too worried about the security of my job to stay home.

    I am CERTAIN that most people who come to work sick do so for very similar reasons, NOT because they want to make everyone else sick.
  • I used to work at Walgreens. The only way my manager would ever let me call in sick is if I were on my death bed.
  • I do not want contagious staff spreading 'bugs'. I keep Lysol spray around the office for anyone to use. Stay home instead of spreading disease to other staff.
  • I for one feel that there are a lot of managers that want workers to stay at home... but at the employee's expense. So, I think a lot of people come to work anyway, not just because of the fear of losing their job, but because they don't want to use PTO.

    There are a lot of companies now that use a PTO system... some call it Paid Time Off, some call it Personal Time Off... but PTO is where you get your vacation time, sick time and personal time all rolled into one and you use it when you need. There's no seperation of sick time, vacation time and personal time. I have worked for two companies that use this system. So, if I called in sick... well, then I'm also cutting into my vacation time and/or personal time. This meant, if I called in sick... it was only because I couldn't escape the bathroom.

    So, to further push the point... I think people come in sick for both, fear of losing their job... and if they work for a company that does a PTO system, so that they don't have to use their PTO time for being sick and can use it for vacation/personal time. It's not because they're trying to make other people sick. If you're worried, keep the Lysol can by your desk and use hand sanitizer/wash your hands frequently... what people used to do.
  • I feel for my co-workers-yet I cannot afford to stay home. I just take da flu shots, dress warm, take Vitamins, eat well. If I still get sick, then its the Theraflu, or Coricidin, whatever, and then stay to myself, go right back to bed,when I get home. Sorry-I cannot afford to miss work. I'm not Schrenker or Madoff or Christopher Marten-I WORK for a living. I hardly ever even get a cold. Chicken broth-steaming-drink all day-it works. Your wife or mother or girlfriend will usually pony up with Kleenex and the soup. If not, call me, I'll send over my Mom and my Mother-in-Law with a bowl.

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