Presenteeism a costly practice

Dear Working Wise: Are there any rules of thumb around coming to work sick? It’s flu season and I’m always on my guard to try and stay healthy, but many of my co-workers come in to work sick — putting me at risk.

Dear Working Wise: Are there any rules of thumb around coming to work sick? It’s flu season and I’m always on my guard to try and stay healthy, but many of my co-workers come in to work sick — putting me at risk.

I’m especially concerned with this year with the H1N1 influenza pandemic making its rounds. What can I do? — Sick of Selfish Co-workers

Dear Sick: Yes, many people go to work sick despite the risk of infecting others. There’s even a name for it: presenteeism.

A recent survey by OfficeTeam found that four out of 10 professionals admitted to coming to work sick very frequently ( www.officeteam.com).

Your co-workers are likely coming to work sick because they don’t want to let the team down — but as you have pointed out, they’re putting the rest of the team at risk.

Staying home when you are sick protects your co-workers, helps you get better faster and saves your employer money by preventing other workers from getting sick.

You can help protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, keeping your unwashed hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes, avoiding close contact with ill co-workers, and being mindful when using shared office items like telephones, keyboards, calculators, whiteboards or kitchen items.

You might want to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close by and possibly some disinfectant wipes so you can quickly clean shared items. Viruses can survive for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Other things you can do to protect yourself include getting immunized and improving your resilience by ensuring you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.

You might also want to raise your concern with your supervisor and explain that presenteeism is likely costing the company money. Studies show that presenteeism costs companies more money than paid sick days.

Your supervisor may not know how common the problem is. Another OfficeTeam survey found that only 17 per cent of executives thought that their staff were coming into work very frequently when sick.

Your supervisor can do a lot to set the expectations around what all employees should do when they are sick, including:

•Ask staff to stay home until they feel well or are no longer contagious.

•Reassure staff not to feel guilty about staying home and remind them that they are protecting their teammates and saving the company money.

•Ask staff to use polite respiratory etiquette, including coughing or sneezing into their arms instead of into their hands.

•Develop alternative working arrangements (e.g., working from home for times when the team is under tight deadlines).

•Ensure all staff are cross-trained so staff can cover for one another.

•Most importantly, managers can set a good example by modeling these behaviours, including staying home when they are sick.

Finally, you might want to tell your supervisor about the influenza pandemic planning resources available at www.employment.alberta.ca/pandemic. These documents can help business leaders prepare for a potential pandemic and answer practical questions around issues such a sick leave, compassionate leave, and exceptions to the Employment Standards code during a pandemic.

For more information on influenza, including symptoms and self-care, visit www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/influenza.html.

To find an influenza vaccination clinic near you, visit: www4.albertahealthservices.ca/Immunization.

Working Wise is compiled weekly by Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. Work-related questions can be sent to him at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Working Wise is provided for general information only. Help with specific situations is available through Alberta Employment Standards by calling 1-877-427-3731.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read