Posted November 29, 2012 by

Despite Risk, Employees Come to Work When Sick

While the work ethic of some employees is admirable, it may not be wise for them to work when they are sick.

“In sickness and in health” may apply to marriage, but it’s also an increasingly common workplace vow, a new Accountemps survey reveals. Seventy-six percent of employees admitted to at least somewhat frequently coming to work when feeling under the weather. One-third (34 percent) of workers interviewed said when a colleague comes in sick, they worry most about being exposed to his or her illness; only 8 percent are impressed by their coworker’s dedication.

Colleagues aren’t the only ones who wish their ailing coworkers would stay in bed. Half of employees said their managers encourage them to remain at home when they are unwell. Only 11 percent felt their bosses discourage them from taking time off.

Workers were asked, “How frequently do you go into work when you’re feeling sick?” Their responses:

Very frequently 42%
Somewhat frequently 34%
Somewhat infrequently 16%
Never 7%
Don’t know/no answer 1%


Workers were also asked, “Which of the following best describes how you feel when colleagues come into work sick?” Their responses:

Worried about being exposed to their illness 34%
Concerned about their welfare 31%
No opinion/doesn’t affect me 26%
Impressed by their dedication 8%
Don’t know/no answer 1%


Finally, respondents were asked, “Does your manager encourage or discourage workers to stay home when they are sick?” Their responses:

Encourages strongly 21%
Encourages somewhat 29%
Neither encourages nor discourages 36%
Discourages somewhat 7%
Discourages strongly 4%
Don’t know/no answer 3%


Max Messmer

Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International

“Some professionals come into work sick thinking it shows dedication and will impress their managers, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies®, 2nd Edition. “Most people are well-intentioned — they show up even when they aren’t feeling well because they don’t want to fall behind in their work or burden colleagues who cover for them. However, they risk spreading their illness to others and affecting the entire team.”

Messmer added, “Employers should encourage staff to stay home if they are under the weather and provide tips on what employees can do to prevent the spread of illness in general.”

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