The study was done before COVID-19, but this is one of those things that we’ve all known about for years, and it’s one of the larger questions we will have as offices start opening back up.
“As for why people continue to do this, the researchers cite a sense of obligation to their colleagues or organisation, or logistic and cultural factors. Other times, people may not feel ‘sick enough’ to justify taking time off, or they may run out of sick leave, or not have paid sick leave in the first place.
“The decision to work through illness is a complex phenomenon and is shaped not only by personal factors or lack of knowledge regarding the importance of the risk of transmission but, more importantly, it is inherent in the organisational culture and policies with financial penalties, which may place possible constraints on absenteeism, thus resulting in presenteeism,” the team explains.”
Sick leave policy, as it has existed over the years in many, many countries, is one of those things that has encouraged people to go to work even when they’re sick. Not getting paid, or having to use some precious little sick time, when you can be productive, seems like an easy choice. Go to work. But that decision also means you might be making your coworkers sick as well, and now we are talking about a very serious illness that has killed over 80,000 people in the US in just a few months.
If part of your routine for opening the office now is to tell employees who feel sick to stay home, you might want to take a look at all of the incentives you’ve put in place that makes it really difficult for them to stay home.
Improve the sick leave policy to give people the flexibility to actually stay home when they’re sick. There are ways to do that, and it might be the least you can do to keep your employees safe.