Sick People Just Don’t Know When To Stay Home From Work

Coughing, sneezing, runny nose, piles of germy tissues…it’s no wonder your co-workers are giving you the stink eye. They’re just too polite to say what we’re all thinking: For the love of God, leave your sick germy ass home.

This may seem elementary (didn’t our mothers always teach us to stay in bed and sip chicken noodle soup when we have a nasty cold or flu?), but according to a new poll from Staples, nearly 80 percent of office workers don’t do that. In fact, they assume that their company will come to an absolute standstill if they don’t show up, so they choose to pass their germs along to the rest of us. How thoughtful.

And even if your co-workers are polite enough to take a sick day, more than two-thirds of them said they return to work while they are still contagious. Grrreat. Bring on the antibacterial wipes.

So why is this? Why do many of us (you know who you are) hesitate to call in sick? The most prevalent response was worrying about not getting the work done. Others said they didn’t want to burn up their sick days (you know, in case they really needed a sick day down the road because this pesky flu doesn’t count).

What’s more, half of all respondents admitted to not cleaning their desks or computers regularly. Meaning, even though germs can live for days in and around our workspace, employees aren’t disinfecting their keyboards after they sneeze or cough into their hands. And then here’s what happens: You happen to walk by their cube, they need help formatting that spreadsheet, you are a nice little co-worker and tap, tap, tap on their keyboard…and guess what? Yep, at the end of the week, you now have the flu. What is that they say about no good deed going unrewarded?

So, your best defense (assuming you can’t get your boss to let you telecommute)? Other than not touching anything ever again in your office (doorknobs, keyboards, elevator buttons, that germ-infested spout on the water cooler), wash your hands regularly, use antibacterial wipes and share them freely.

And if the next person with a cold happens to be you, well, you know what to do.




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    • Ara

      I wouldn’t take a sick day unless I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t have paid sick days, real benefits, or a good salaray but I do have student loans up the ass.

    • Alexandra

      I doubt your boss would appreciate you skipping a week of work for a cold…

    • Samantha Easter

      I think the biggest reason that people don’t take sick days is that they simply don’t have them or they would be penalized if they do. Quite a few Americans are making minimum wage and if you are working for $8 an hour, you kinda need that $8 an hour. Add to that the very real possibility of being fired or at least getting into trouble, it makes it difficult to stay in bed. I am now a teacher where I get 3 sick days a year but during high school and college, I was a waitress. I got the flu and stayed home one day, the next day I tried to call in and was told that if I did, I’d be fired so I dragged myself in for a 12 hour shift serving food. Two days later I went to the doctor and found out I had pneumonia. I didn’t care about my coworkers because you don’t have an option in this case. I think this article is a bit shortsighted in lambasting everyone who works when they are sick, because sometimes taking a sick day isn’t much of an option.

    • Kate Mendizabal

      I work in a very large, famous hospital, in the intensive care unit – our hospital has an attendance policy that says you are only permitted to call off sick once every 3 months. Any more than 1 day off, every 3 months is excessive. Be “excessive” more than twice in a year — and you get fired. It has forced us to work around people who are already critically ill with contagious flu-type viruses because if we don’t come to work, we get fired.