Plenty of Iowans are coughing, sneezing and blowing their noses as we’re approaching the heart of cold and flu season. How many of them are going to work while they’re sick? Far too many, according to a new study. Dr. Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, says some people will call in sick at the drop of a hat, but many others should stay home when they’re sick, yet they go in anyway. “This is a pretty common practice and actually a phrase has been termed to cover it,” Dr. Rupp says. “It’s called presenteeism. So, rather than abusing your sick time, you’re actually abusing time where you come into work where you probably should be staying at home.”
The survey of Iowans and Nebraskans finds four out of five people questioned say they’ve gone to work sick. You’re not doing anyone any favors, Rupp says, if you’re taking your bug to work and exposing the whole office. “Folks who are coughing and sneezing and hacking and running fevers really should be staying at home and anybody who has a vomitting or diahreal illness, likewise, should stay at home until they’re feeling better and they’re back to good health,” Rupp says. “When they come to work, clearly they can be spreading these bugs to their co-workers and that’s not a nice thing to do.”
If you really must go to work, it’s best to isolate yourself as much as possible from others, use hand sanitizer and cover your mouth with your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Rupp says our great Midwestern work ethic can sometimes backfire in these situations. “Most people are doing this from a sense of being indispensible, that the task they’re doing is just so important that nobody else can do it,” Rupp says. “They also have a sense that they don’t want to let their co-workers down. If they’re not there doing the job, this is going to roll to somebody else.”
The survey showed nearly half of those who go to work sick take -no- precautions to avoid direct contact with others.