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Illness in the Workplace

Returning to Work after 2020

The world has changed since March 2020. The way we approach workplace sickness has changed. The fear of workplace cooties will be at an all-time high (with good reason). Thanks to new vaccines many fears have dissipated however we should continue many of the cleaning practices we’ve become use too.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by Staples office supply store, 90 percent of office workers admitted to going to work when sick.

Back in 2016, More than 8 in 10 (86%) working adults will go into the workplace with an infectious illness.

Here are some more results from surveys taken back 2016.

• Almost a quarter (24%) of working adults feel under pressure to go into the workplace when unwell.

• 22% feel that their manager would prefer them to go into work if they have an infectious illness, as long as it is not too serious.

• 21% of respondents feel uncomfortable being around colleagues who have an infectious illness.

• More than half (59%) of working adults would go into work with a cough or cold, 32% would go into the workplace with a throat infection or strep throat, 22% would go in with flu, and 15% would go into work with the norovirus.

• Half (50%) of respondents in the marketing industry feel their boss would prefer them to be at work if they have an infectious illness, unless it is serious. This compares to 39% of respondents in the utility industry and 27% of respondents in manufacturing.

The Cost of Sickness in the Workplace

Employees missing work can have a great cost to a business, from potential revue, decreased morale, mental health, lack of productivity and illness. Managing sickness is key to having an effective team in the office. First off, employees’ health can be mental as well as physical.

• Poor mental health & Stress - Between 2018 - 2019 stress, depression or anxiety resulted in 12.8 million days lost from work.

• Musculoskeletal injuries

• Acute medical conditions

• Work/non-work related injuries/accidents

In 2018 the US Bureau of Labor Statics reported an annual average of 2.9% of absences were a result of being sick (private sector 2.8%, public sector 3.3%). In Europe, average rates are between 3 - 6% (higher levels of unionization and social security laws that protect employees). The estimated global cost of absences is $719 billion annually (Europe $494.28 Billon and US $225.8).

The United States also suffers from a condition called Presenteeism. The term “Presenteeism” means whenever an employee works while sick, leading to loss productivity, poor health, exhaustion and a chance of spreading the infection. (More than 86% of working adults go into work with a contagious illness).

Preventing Sickness at the Office:

A “traditional” flu virus can remain on surfaces for up to 48 hours. If COVID19 has taught us anything thing the best thing to do to promote staying home if an employee has a fever. However, we also don’t know if where “really” carrying a contagious illness. Here are steps in order to keep the workplace free of spreading illnesses.

• Clean and disinfectant high traffic areas DAILY: lobbies, handrails, bathrooms, cafeterias,


• Thoroughly disinfect areas where infectious employees were working.

• Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects: desks, doorknobs railings, computer keyboards, phones and pens

• Carry your own pen instead of borrowing someone else’s

• Wash hands often

• Request the ability to work from home (if available).

• Wear a Face Mask and practice social distancing if your still recovering from illness while in the office


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