Canada's Condominium Magazine
The recent flu-related deaths of otherwise young, healthy patients brought “flu awareness” back to the top-of-mind social issue. A healthy athlete, a ten year-old child, and other healthy people have died of flu complications.The ongoing debate over “go to work or stay home” has never been more urgent than in this flu season, which appears to victimize even the young and healthy.
Working while sick with the flu has a negative impact on employees and the business. In Asia, where sick people tend to automatically wear masks (to prevent disease spread), in Canada, going to work with a mask is often frowned upon. As long as people refuse to take precautions — staying home, wearing a mask — the flu will continue to cost our economy billions of dollars. Going to work with the flu will inrease spread of flu in the office by 25% according to Olivia Curtis, a workplace wellness expert at HR company G&A Partners:
The flu costs billions of dollars per year in direct medical expenses and lost earnings. “Coming into work with the flu is a huge contributor of this! Coming to work sick not only negatively affects that employee personally (longer recovery time, loss in productivity, etc.), but also that employee’s coworkers’ families and everyone else who comes into contact with them.”
Additionally, it can affect the company’s bottom line. “There can be a large cost burden to the company as well in terms of lost productivity and revenue,” says Curtis. “A good portion of these costs can be avoided by simply staying home from work when feeling sick. In fact, using a flu epidemic simulator, the University of Pittsburg found that staying home from work for just one day when an employee has the flu reduced the risk of transmission to coworkers by 25 per cent. That risk can be decreased even further, by 40 per cent, by staying home for two days.”
Is it worth going to work?
The flu season is never fun. Dodging coughs and sneezes from fellow passersby, searching for a seat in the back away from everyone else in hopes of avoiding germs, and getting the flu shot are enough to make you want to curl up in bed with a good book and let the outside world fend for themselves. We drudge along, however. After all, we have to make a living. Despite your best efforts, however, it is bound to catch up with you sooner or later.
Imagine you wake up in the morning with aching muscles, a nagging cough, and various other symptoms that suggest you may have the flu. Then it dawns on you. You can’t be sick. You have to work. It looks like it is time to suck it up and do your best to make it through the workday.
Is it really worth going in to work when you have the flu? Many people feel that they do not have a choice. They have to work, and they simply do not have the time to lie in bed sick all day. However, there is a lot more to consider when making the decision whether or not to call off work: your fellow-employees, your customers, your employer’s bottom line when you spread the flu to others. Most experts agree — stay home. But, if your boss isn’t paying sick leave, it’s easier said than done.
For the Sick
Delaying the Inevitable
It can be tempting to brush off symptoms and attempt to make it through the workday because a paycheck is a paycheck, and rising costs of living make every penny earned that much more valuable. However, when you are faced with the flu, you are likely to end up missing work anyway, whether it is today or tomorrow or three days from now. If you do not take the time to rest up and get better at the onset of symptoms, then you will overwork your body at a time when it is already struggling to make it through the day. This can result in delayed recovery and prolonged leave as symptoms worsen.
Significantly Less Productive
A day spent working through misery is a day where nothing gets done and mistakes are made ten-fold. If you have an important job where mistakes can be detrimental to your business or may be dangerous or even fatal, then do not under any circumstances work when you are sick. You need to be alert and focused while you are working.
However, even mundane jobs are better done when we are at our best. You will be much more productive when you are feeling better, and you will likely recover more quickly if you take time out early on in your illness. Overtaxing your already compromised system can result in a significantly longer recovery time. The longer you wait, the more time off you are going to need.
Fear of Repercussions
Many people are simply afraid to call off due to strict rules about calling in sick. They may feel that they will lose their jobs and be unable to support their families. However, it is unethical for anyone to be penalized for calling off work when they are ill. Calling off all the time and misusing sick time is certainly frowned upon, but calling off when you are truly ill is necessary. If you face any issues as a result of taking time off for health reasons, you can contact your company’s HR department.
For Employers with Sick Employees
Communicate and Set Guidelines
As stated above, many people avoid calling off with the flu and other illnesses for fear of repercussions. It is vital that employers stress the importance of maintaining health and staying home if one is sick. This is especially important in the food industry, medical field, and other areas where employees come into contact with a significant number of people or directly impact their health and wellbeing in some way. Communicate with your employees and set strict guidelines. It is much better to have one employee miss a day or two than it would be to lose several employees over the course of a few weeks and possibly infect customers as well.
Loss of Productivity
Employees who show up to work while sick are significantly less productive, and they are much more likely to make costly mistakes. Rather than forcing them to come to work when they are sick, offer them a project that they can do remotely or insist that they stay home and rest up if that is not feasible.
Loss of Morale
Employees who are forced to work through illness will come to loathe their job and feel like “just another number.” Encouraging health and wellness, taking up the slack when they are sick, etc. can boost morale and result in greater productivity in the workplace. People work better when they feel like part of a team and like they matter. Even if your employee insists on working, it is better for everyone involved if he or she stays home and rests. Coming to work when ill can put a strain on office communications, causing problems when working together. If one employee comes to work sick and passes it on to several others in the office, who then take it home to their families and friends, it is going to cause work conditions to decline.
Risks to Co-Workers, Family Members, and Others Nearby
Influenza is highly contagious, and refusing to stay home when you are sick only puts others at risk. The “24-hour bug” is a slight misnomer, according to Dr. Erin Lafferty, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Although some feel relief from their symptoms more quickly than others, the infection rarely leaves the body that quickly. Furthermore, the flu is contagious for 24 hours at the least, and it may persist even longer. Some may even be contagious for a few days after symptoms subside.
Co-workers, friends, family members, and anyone who comes into contact with you will be at risk of contracting the flu. Germs are spread through the air we breathe and surfaces we touch, such as computer keyboards, phones, tools, a coffee pot, elevator buttons, stairwells, and door knobs. The germs can last anywhere from a few hours to a month, potentially infecting hundreds if not thousands of unsuspecting people. The flu virus can be fatal in people with already compromised immune systems, the elderly, and young children.
However, even the healthiest people can face complications from the flu. TIME recently ran the story of Nico Mallozzi, a 10-year-old boy from the U.S. who contracted the flu virus. An otherwise healthy and active boy, he insisted on supporting his teammates even though he was too sick to play in the hockey game. Unfortunately, he suffered complications from the flu, which led to pneumonia and sepsis.
The Mallozzi family was caught entirely off-guard, as he had always been so healthy and seemed to be okay despite some mild flu symptoms. While away, his condition worsened, and they stopped at multiple hospitals on the way home. He passed away at a hospital in New York on Sunday, January 14th. His mother told TIME that Nico had “ten years of health” and that he “was like an ox.”
It may seem completely normal to go to work and power through it, but you could be jeopardizing your health and that of others, so it is a good idea to evaluate your symptoms, see a doctor, and stay home to get some rest and drink plenty of fluids. The better you care for yourself, the more quickly you will recover and get back to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
How to wash your hands: 95% of us do it wrong
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health showed that approximately 95 per cent of people wash their hands incorrectly. The following is the proper method for washing your hands, one which is used in many workplaces, especially those in the food industry and medical field.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Apply soap liberally and rub hands together to make a lather.
- Scrub your hands well, including the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under the nails.
- Many also recommend washing the lower half of your arms, which can come into contact with many surfaces and contaminants.
- Wash for 20 seconds and rinse under running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or hand dryer.
- Apply sanitizer, and wear gloves when working with food, medicine, or anything else that is ingested by the consumer or fellow employees.