Stay Home If You Are Sick



Featured Whistler Question Newspaper Column, February 7, 2017: Stay Home If You Are Sick

If you knew that you could spread a virus that would make others sick, would you? Probably not and yet, people show up at work when they have flu or cold symptoms. With some nasty viruses circulating through Whistler right now, it is a good reminder that if you’re sick, you should stay home from work.

But for how long?

Scientific research doesn’t conclusively know how long a person infected with a cold or flu virus is contagious. For those infected with a common cold virus, a person may be contagious for two to three days before any symptoms appear and remain so until he or she doesn’t show any symptoms. This is a period of up to two weeks or so. And a person who is sick with the stomach flu is contagious for at least three days (and often two weeks) after the symptoms have stopped.

Why Sick People Go to Work

Although common sense dictates that you should just stay home from work so as not to expose others, most of us are guilty of going to work when we are sick. A recent survey by CareerBuilders.ca showed that 66 per cent of Canadian employees head to work when they are sick, simply because of pressures at work. In fact, almost half (48 per cent) claim their stress levels at work have increased over the last six months and that taking time off would result in a fuller inbox and a longer ‘to do’ list – creating more stress.

The abovementioned survey also found 53 per cent weren’t able to take time off work if they were ill because they couldn’t afford to miss their pay.

It’s Called ‘Presenteeism’

So we’ve probably all done it and in fact, done it so much that the experts have coined it as ‘presenteeism’. The opposite of absenteeism, presenteeism is when employees come to work despite not being able to function up to their normal standard.

Both presenteeism and absenteeism affect a company’s bottom line with costs soaring over the past decade. According to Statistics Canada, absenteeism costs employers in excess of 15 billion dollars a year due to decreased productivity, lost opportunity costs, financial impact and administrative costs. Specifically, presenteeism results in low productivity and spreading germs to other staff.

Keep It Clean

As noted above, people are sometimes infectious before they actually show signs of illness so preventing germs from being spread is an ongoing practice to initiate in the workplace. The rules are commonplace now. Sneeze or cough into your elbow, not your hand. Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap. Don’t wipe your face, nose, and mouth with your hands.

And finally, don’t overlook keeping your work environment clean. A University of Arizona study found that a worker’s desk has far more bacteria per square inch (almost 21,000 germs per square inch) than an office toilet seat (49 germs per square inch).  Phones have almost 25,000 germs per square inch. Get in the habit of disinfecting areas such as telephones, door handles, light switches, computers keyboards, photocopiers, worktop surfaces and such.

Stay healthy everyone!

At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Whistler Open Forum Speaker Series. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for 5 consecutive years.  Cathy writes this column for the Whistler Question newspaper.


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