The Work Bug: Maintaining Workplace Wellness

“In sickness and in health” is a vow typically made in a wedding ceremony, but many workers also live by these words in their jobs, a new OfficeTeam survey shows. More than seven in 10 (71 per cent) professionals admitted they frequently go to work when they’re feeling sick. Managers are aware of the issue: Sixty-eight per cent said that ailing employees head into the office at least somewhat frequently.

The survey of Canadian workers and managers were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from more than 404 Canadian workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments, and more than 304 senior managers at Canadian companies.

The survey also revealed differences by age: Workers between the ages of 18 and 34 were more likely than any other age group to frequently go to work when feeling sick (76 per cent).

“Many professionals fear falling behind or feel that they can’t afford to take a sick day, so they head into work when they are under the weather,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Managers should encourage their teams to stay home when they are sick. Let staff know that there’s nothing heroic about spreading colds and flus.”

There are five tips to help maintain a well workplace:

  • Address the issue head-on. At the start of cold or flu season, remind staff to avoid spreading illness throughout the office by staying home when they are sick.
  • Model the behaviour. If you’re a manager, resist the urge to come in sick yourself. If you do, employees will assume the same is expected of them.
  • Give “homework.” Offer those suffering from minor ailments the ability to work from home, if possible. They may be less likely to come in and infect others if they don’t have to use sick days.
  • Keep it clean. Encourage staff to clean up common areas, like break rooms, and make hand sanitizer available to avoid the spread of germs.
  • Have a back-up plan. Identify team members who can take over responsibilities for sick employees to avoid backlogs.

This article is reprinted with the permission from BC Human Resources Management Association. Originally published on