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How to Know When You're Too Sick to Go to Work

| Office Life


Feb 6 2014

It’s been a cold winter—which is probably a bit of an understatement at this point. Over the past couple of weeks, much of the country has experienced record low temperatures. And, if the groundhog seeing his shadow and the upcoming forecast for the approaching weeks can both be trusted, we might just have to endure some more of the not so pleasant winter weather.


Unfortunately, the winter season goes hand in hand with cold and flu season. Most companies are used to seeing a dip in employee attendance over the winter months, due in part to both those taking vacations to escape the cold and those who are simply too ill to make it into work. However, according to a survey of office workers completed by Kimberly-Clark Professional in 2013, 59% said they still went to work even when they knew they were contagious. This highlights a continually growing trend of more and more ill individuals forgoing their beds, taking some cold & flu medication and heading into work, regardless of how sick and unsuited to work they may be.


Deciding whether or not you are too sick to work can be a difficult choice and most now fear the perceived negative consequences of staying home. Most of the office workers surveyed by Kimberly-Clark Professionals cited the fear of falling behind as their motivation for going to work while sick. Other factors also played a part, including having very limited sick time or not getting paid for sick time off, which many workers simply couldn’t financially afford.


Even with all of these factors weighing on your mind, there are going to be times when you have to stay home for the sake and well-being not only of yourself but for others as well.


Here are some general guidelines for when it’s probably best to stay home:

  1. If you have a fever: Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether or not you do actually have a fever as many medications can mask it or make it bearable. Pay attention to how you actually feel before taking any medication and make the decision based on that.
  2. You are weak and confused with little to no focus: Let’s face it – you are not going to be performing well like this. It’s better to stay home and get better instead of botching every project you touch.
  3. Uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea: At work, you’re going to have limited access to a bathroom. Worst of all, it’s most likely a public bathroom. This spells disaster, discomfort and possible embarrassment.
  4. You’re just beginning to feel ill: It’s true that you are at your most contagious during the early stages of any illness. When you first start to feel slow and just generally sick, it may be the best time to stay home and recover. This may also help you shake off the cold or flu more quickly than you would have otherwise. Additionally, by avoiding interaction with coworkers when you are at your most contagious time, there’s less of a chance that you will spread your sickness to others.

Every company has written guidelines when it comes to sick leave. The leniency and flexibility of these rules is sure to depend upon your company’s culture. There are some companies that are sure to have stricter sick leave rules when compared to others. However, one thing that companies may want to consider implementing, and something that you, as an employee can suggest, is a way for ill employees to be able to work from. As an office setting is hardly sick-friendly, this will not only allow for an employee to work (and thereby not fall behind), but it will also keep them home where they can rest comfortably, be near everything that they need and, most importantly, keep their germs from being spread to other workers. Of course, working from home is not viable for every position in a company, but it could still lead to more productive employees and a less sick workforce in general.


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