Majority of Americans Report to Work When Sick

News Updates

So much for keeping your germs to yourself. Most respondents to a recent CareerBuilder survey—72 percent—said they typically go to work when they are sick.

Whether their bosses or workplace culture pressure them to report to the office when they are ill, or if they’re coming to work because they don’t have paid sick leave, more than half of the survey respondents (55 percent) said they feel guilty if they call in sick.

The CareerBuilder survey was conducted nationwide from Nov. 15-Dec. 2, 2010, among more than 3,700 workers.

While sick employees in the workplace might be getting work done, they might be infecting their co-workers. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents said they have gotten sick from a co-worker who came to the office sick, while 12 percent said they picked up a bug from someone who was sick on public transportation going to or from work.

“Even if workers feel pressure to be at the office, they should talk to their managers about staying home if they are sick, or ask about other options such as working remotely,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Most employers are flexible and understand that employees are more productive if they are feeling their best.”

Workers reported using the following tactics to try to stay healthy during cold-and-flu season, which peaks in January and February:

  • I wash my hands often—78 percent.
  • I carry hand sanitizer with me and use it often—32 percent.
  • I regularly clean my keyboard, phone, desk, etc.—30 percent.
  • I avoid shaking hands with people—15 percent.
  • I skip meetings where I know people will be sick—3 percent.

Haefner offered the following tips for staying well at work:

Don’t share germs. Stay home if you are sick. If you are sick and come to work, try to isolate yourself from your co-workers by working in a conference room or confined area so that you don’t spread your sickness. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.

Find a way to unwind. Many employees have heavier workloads, longer hours and more stress. Take breaks during the day to prevent becoming overwhelmed. Try walks, yoga or meditation.

Understand sick leave. If employees are concerned about taking days off, they should speak to their managers or HR so that they understand how sick days can be used. HR managers can make sure all workers know how to utilize their sick leave.

Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News.