‘Presenteeism is Making Me sick!

‘Presenteeism is Making Me sick!

Amanda Hanan – Zephyr Consulting Social Media Producer

Sickness ‘presenteeism’ is the act of working while sick – a workplace disease perhaps of epidemic proportions!

I was at my son’s dentist when the hygienist started coughing: great loud chesty coughs, heard all over the surgery – honestly I could not have been more horrified if she lit up a cigarette and blew a smoke ring over the chair.

You see, I’m not a fan of the ‘soldier on’ brigade. There’s nothing worse than sitting next to the contagious as they spread their infected droplets throughout the office, whooping, sneezing and wheezing over us all. There’s always that one work mate, turning up, no matter how close they are to death’s door: nose red, eyes streaming, box of tissues, bottle of cough mix and chicken soup in a thermos; I can’t help think (rather cynically) they are saying “look at me! I’m so dedicated”. Dedicated to making me sick! And does the boss really love their “dedication”? I mean, would you bake a cake for the office morning tea and add a good dose of something that may make your work mates seriously ill?
On the days, the sick come into work, I want to ask if we the ‘healthy’ can stay home and then the sick can knock themselves out at their desks, in a giant whirlpool of their various viruses, bacteria and ‘germy mcgerm’ faces.

There are many reasons why workers come to work sick: a sense of obligation, not wanting to burden co-workers, feeling a duty to clients, meetings, not feeling sick enough and not wanting to appear weak to other co-workers or seniors. If you look at these reasons logically – bringing your germs to work is in fact burdening your co-workers and ends up creating more work as more of the team becomes infected.

When I suggested to the hygienist perhaps it was not appropriate for her to be at work – she said, “You should have heard me last week”! A fact that gave me no comfort whatsoever. She then said she would be wearing a mask, again, no comfort what-so-ever.

In 2015 a NZ Wellness in the Workplace Survey, said if people are coming into work sick you need to change the work culture that says coming in sick is acceptable. You should start by implementing a workplace sickness policy. Changing that ‘soldier on’ culture means your workplace prefers sick workers to stay home, and you will send sick workers home. Workplaces should also allow the flexibility of working from home while sick. One of the best ways to improve the well-being of staff is by providing paid flu vaccinations – at around $25 per employee it’s money well spent, when the flu could possibly take someone out of action for ten days or more.

So I’d just like to say to you, If you have any of these symptoms: a temperature over 38 degrees, a hacking productive cough, diarrhea and/or vomiting or if you have a contagious eye infection, don’t come into work stay home in bed – otherwise, you make me sick!



Posted on: June 26, 2017Courtnie Heissenbuttel