Survey: Your coworkers are sick, and you should probably stay away from them

Do your coworkers make you sick? Quite literally, they probably do, especially in cold and flu season. Most people admit to coming to work when they are ill and contagious.

Those are the results of a new survey by Accountemps which found that nine in ten Canadians (89 per cent) say that they sometimes come to work with cold and flu symptoms. More than a quarter of us (27 per cent) say that we always show up on the job when we’re under the weather.

Why do we do it? The survey asked over 800 Canadians that too.

Why people come to work sick

  • Too much work to do to take a day off
  • Didn’t want to use a sick day
  • Pressure from the employer to be present
  • Coworkers come in to work sick

If everyone is turning up sick because they have too much work to do, and they’re under pressure from their employer and peers, it sounds like a cultural problem. And it is counter-productive. When sick workers don’t take the time off to recover, they will be ill for longer, as well as infecting their coworkers. This will slow down the whole business.

Accountemps’ Koula Vasilopoulos agrees, “Workers often worry about falling behind by taking a sick day, but that mentality may be doing more harm than good. A healthy workplace is a happier, and ultimately more productive, environment. Taking the time to stay home and get better is not only good for your own wellbeing, it also shows consideration for your colleagues, your quality of work, and the overall success of your team.”

Working from home can be a workable compromise if your job allows it. You can take care of the essentials or instruct your coworkers who are covering for you, and ease back into work as you recover – without putting your fellow employees at risk of catching your sickness.

People not wanting to take a sick day when they are actually sick just sounds like they don’t like their jobs very much. If you’re going to be miserable with a cold, and you’re miserable at work anyway, you might as well go in. Save that sick day for playing hooky when you’re feeling better. If that’s the case, consider finding a job that you like enough to enjoy your day at work and not want to scam a day off from. The time is right. Canada is experiencing historic low unemployment right now, with many sectors and regions struggling with labour shortage conditions.

In the meantime, if you’re sick, stay home. You may think that you are being conscientious by never taking a day or two to recover, but spreading your sickness around the workplace is actually rather selfish. Of course, you could pick up the flu and be contagious before you even know that you have it.

Here are the most common flu symptoms to look out for:

  • Sore muscles, particularly in the back, arms and legs
  • A fever over 38 C
  • Sweating and chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Nasal congestion

Your best defense against catching a cold or the flu is to wash your hands frequently, especially after touching shared surfaces such as door handles, microwave or vending machine buttons, the communal fridge handle, or anyone else’s mouse or keyboard.

You can keep track of this year’s flu season in Canada on the government’s FluWatch surveillance site.

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