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Why You Should Stop Going to the Office When You’re Sick

Dear bosses, let your employees stay home and rest

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BY Cristina Morales - 15 Sep 2017

Presenteeism in the workplace

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

We’ve all worked with that one colleague who still insists on going to work with a runny nose, a hacking cough, and “just a slight” fever. At one point or another, we probably even were that colleague.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by Staples Advantage, presenteeism is more common in smaller businesses. Employees feel pressure to tough it out because they feel that they can’t miss a day at work, and some even show up sick because they think their boss would appreciate it.

While many bosses understand the costs of absenteeism, they often don’t pay attention to the pitfalls of presenteeism. Coming to the office while under the weather may look like dedication, but plenty of studies have actually shown that presenteeism can be just as costly—or even costlier—than absenteeism.

Here’s the gist: employees who show up to work sick perform poorly. The repercussions of presenteeism don’t just end at shoddy output—presenteeism also affects co-workers, clients, and vendors.

If a sickly employee manages to get any work done, the quality of their output is often sub-par; they are also more likely to commit an error that could cost your company dearly. Plus, they could infect your other employees, and you could have a mini-epidemic on your hands.

What can bosses do?

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Psychology, managers play an important part in preventing their workaholic employees from forcing them to show up to the office while sick.

“Managers should be trained to develop supportive leadership skills that are able to function as a protective factor buffering the detrimental association between an overwhelming compulsion to work and presenteeism,” says lead author Dr. Greta Mazzetti in a press release.

1. Offer paid sick leaves

If recuperating at home comes at the cost of a day’s wages, then it’s only natural that your employees are forcing themselves to go to work even while sick. And if that’s not enough to convince you to offer paid sick leaves, get this: employees who have paid sick, family, and medical leaves tend to be healthier and more productive.

2. Tell employees to rest

“It’s important to create a culture of wellness in the office so employees feel comfortable calling in sick,” says Chris Correnti, Vice President of Staples Facility Solutions at Staples Advantage in this Inc. article. “The most important is to simply tell people to log off and rest. Employers need to encourage employees to take the necessary time to recover when they contract the flu to protect not only themselves, but those around them in the office.”

3. Make telecommuting an option

If they have something urgent on their plate, some of your employees may insist on coming to the office instead of taking a sick day. By giving them more flexibility and allowing them to work from home when needed, this will allow them to rest without sacrificing the task at hand.

4. Be a good model

Apparently, it’s possible to be too inspiring of a boss. Giving your company everything you’ve got sounds good on paper, but your company’s success shouldn’t come at the cost of your health.

“You might need to make it clear to those around you that the entire team is better off when a sick worker takes the time necessary to recuperate,” writes Wanda Thibodeaux in this Inc. article. “That means you need to model taking breaks, too.”