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Presenteeism: The Costs of Going to Work When Sick

FlourishAnyway is an industrial/organizational psychologist with applied experience in corporate human resources and consulting.

It's not heroic to report to work sick.  You're spreading your illness and risking the health of others.  Take to your sick self to bed.

It's not heroic to report to work sick. You're spreading your illness and risking the health of others. Take to your sick self to bed.

Hey, Don't Spread the Love

Sick with the flu, she has dragged herself to the office again . . . coughing, snotty, and feeling ragged. Arming herself with a box of tissues and a pack of throat lozenges, she retreats to her workspace to produce whatever she can.

She attends meetings, commiserates with coworkers on her symptoms, and touches the same door handles, chair arms, and copier buttons as office mates. Although she may see it as an act of devotion to her job, when this employee reported to duty sick she subjected coworkers, customers, her employer, and even herself to unnecessary risks.

Tomorrow, she'll do it again.

This lady smartly stayed home, attended by her cat, Lucy.

This lady smartly stayed home, attended by her cat, Lucy.

Presenteeism: What Is It?

Presenteeism refers to reporting to work when ill and thus not working to full capacity.1 Common examples of illnesses that fail to keep employees at home include allergies, migraines, the cold and flu, back pain, and Norovirus (winter vomiting virus).2

When employees work sick they fail to work mindfully—that is, in the present moment, giving focused attention to the task. Instead, they are less productive because they are distracted by thoughts and sensations of their illness. Symptoms of their illness thus compete for their attention, on top of all the usual office distractors.

Working sick may result in

  • decreased work output
  • reduced time spent on work tasks
  • lower quality work
  • more mistakes and
  • poorer staff morale while the sick employee is present.3

This may be a special concern if the employee is on medications that induce drowsiness or if she has lost significant sleep due to her illness. The cost of such presenteeism is estimated at $150 billion annually.

If your work space includes these, maybe you belong at home.

If your work space includes these, maybe you belong at home.

Whom Does It Hurt?

Sick Employees Suffer Greatest

Risks for the sick employee and employer include the possibility that the employee will work until exhaustion. Studies have found that there is a greater likelihood that employees who report to work ill will later suffer poor future health—including serious coronary events—and will require subsequent sick leave.4,5

Additionally, by reporting to work ill, the employee becomes a higher on-the-job accident risk. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely to suffer nonfatal workplace injuries.6

She's sick with the flu, but she's going to suffer through it and report to work anyway.

She's sick with the flu, but she's going to suffer through it and report to work anyway.

Impacts on Colleagues and Customers

Presenteeism may likewise carry consequences for the employee's colleagues and customers when the illness carries the risk of contagion. Those who work with food, for example, can become vectors of infection by transferring their germs to food preparation surfaces, the food itself, or through the air (as through coughing).

Each year, nearly one in six Americans are infected with a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Norovirus causes almost half of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.7 Norovirus can spread when small particles of feces or vomit are transferred through direct or indirect contact.

The virus may be passed to others for as long as three days after symptom recovery. A 2011 CDC study found that 12% of nearly 500 food service workers surveyed acknowledged reporting to work with vomiting and diarrhea for two or more shifts.8

Could your favorite restaurant meal be served up with a side order of sickness?

Could your favorite restaurant meal be served up with a side order of sickness?

Hazards for Vulnerable Populations

Whether food service staff, retail workers, or school teachers, sick employees whose jobs require that they interface with large numbers of people can therefore pose a hazard to the public.9 When vulnerable populations are involved, further complications can arise. Such vulnerable populations include those with weakened immune systems and chronic health conditions.

The sick employee may not realize that they work alongside people struggling with chronic health conditions. Such disabilities are not always visible or disclosed in today's workplace. For example, it is very possible to work alongside someone with lupus, diabetes, MS, asthma, or cancer and yet be unaware of your coworker's diagnosis.

Coworkers who live with underlying health conditions risk exacerbations of their diseases as well as complications that lie far beyond the mild illness plaguing their "presentee" colleagues. There may be similar health ramifications for pregnant women, older people, and young children who may be clients, for example. A bad cold constitutes a nuisance for an otherwise healthy individual but can trigger a downward health spiral for such vulnerable populations.

With no sick leave, he may feel like he has no choice but to report to work ill.

With no sick leave, he may feel like he has no choice but to report to work ill.

Why Do Employees Work Sick?

Several key factors motivate employees to report to work sick:

Economic Necessity

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only two-thirds of American workers have access to paid sick leave.10 Workers without paid sick leave may feel like they cannot afford to lose income by staying home to recuperate.

Presenteeism may be more likely for financial reasons among part-time employees and those in the following professions who have less access to paid sick leave:

  • service
  • sales
  • maintenance
  • production
  • transportation and
  • material handling.

However, even workers who do have sick leave benefits may not take the time off for themselves.

About half of middle-aged adults are "sandwiched" between a young child they are raising (or an adult child they are supporting) and a parent who is 65 years of age or older.11 Members of this "sandwich generation" may feel obligated to save their sick days for when their child or parent is ill, particularly in cases when the family relies upon a single breadwinner.

High Job Demands

As today's employers require their workforce to "do more with less," many employees face high workloads, limited backup support, pressing deadlines, and low control over the pace of their own work. Some sick employees may perceive presenteeism as a better option than facing a backlog of work upon returning to the office.

Employers should provide workers guidance on what they consider "too sick to work."

Employers should provide workers guidance on what they consider "too sick to work."

Perception of Need or Irreplaceability

Presenteeism becomes a more viable choice when an employee feels there is no one who can easily take her place—for example, because of the unique skill or educational requirements of the job.12

Workers who are more educated and those employed in higher risk positions with more physical workload or stress are more likely to report to work sick. Ironically, employees in the health, helping, and teaching professions—the very employees who typically serve at-risk populations—are more likely to report to work ill.13 A poll by the American College of Physicians found that over half of resident doctors queried came to work with symptoms of the flu during the prior year.14

Is your healthcare provider working sick?  Are they exposing you to additional contagious illnesses?  Could you end up sicker than when you went in to see them?

Is your healthcare provider working sick? Are they exposing you to additional contagious illnesses? Could you end up sicker than when you went in to see them?

Organizational Factors

Company leaders may model presenteeism so that it becomes awkward for employees to take sick leave if the boss never does it. Management may also exert pressure on sick employees to meet important deadlines and other work obligations except in the most extreme circumstances.

Also, employees may feel a responsibility to their already overburdened colleagues. They may reason that it is better to "push through" their cold or flu with presenteeism than to add to coworkers' workloads.

Broader Pattern of Unhealthy Individual Lifestyle Choices

Presenteeism appears to be part of a pattern of poor personal health factors. Employees who work while ill tend to exercise less, are more likely to be overweight, have a poorer diet, and are more likely to smoke.15

They also experience poorer work/life balance, tend to base their self-esteem heavily on their performance, and have poorer interpersonal relationships with both colleagues and management. Presenteeism thus seems to be part of a broader syndrome of behaviors that have both short and long-term health consequences.

As he assesses how he feels this morning, he has a decision to make.  Will he call in sick or stay home?  Workload and deadlines weigh on his mind.

As he assesses how he feels this morning, he has a decision to make. Will he call in sick or stay home? Workload and deadlines weigh on his mind.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers can have a major impact on discouraging presenteeism.16 Providing employees with paid sick leave is an important step in supporting workers to make smart choices. Companies can also offer clear, practical guidance on what conditions should prompt employees to stay home, and they can educate employees about the many risks of presenteeism.

Because organizational leaders set the tone, management should advocate a culture of being focused by not working sick themselves. Employers can also seek collaborative and creative options when employees are recuperating (e.g., work-from-home options, schedule changes). Additionally, companies can provide hand sanitizer stations and comprehensive wellness programs that include flu vaccinations, Employee Assistance Programs, and fitness centers.

See a neurologist if your headaches are severe and/or frequent.

See a neurologist if your headaches are severe and/or frequent.

Flourishing in a Presentee Workplace

The individual employee can flourish in the presentee workplace by taking several practical steps. In a supportive manner, encourage coworkers who insist on working sick to go home where they can recover.

Or, for those who need a friendly reminder, send an anonymous e-card from the CDC on hand washing after restroom use or covering one's coughs and sneezes.17 If a co-worker insists on staying at work ill, physically separate yourself as much as practical from him or her and be tactful about your concerns regarding wellness.

Also, regularly wash your hands with soap and water and avoid touching your face, as this is a common means of transmitting germs between surfaces and the eyes, nose, and mouth. Do not share food or eat at your desk.

Clean work surfaces regularly with antibacterial wipes. One study found that the six dirtiest places in the office are break room sink-faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards, refrigerator door handles, water fountain buttons, and vending machine buttons.18

Finally, get a flu shot, make healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices, and stay home yourself when ill. With a little bit of effort from employees, coworkers, and employers, everyone involved can flourish at work—even during the height of cold and flu season!

Prevent contagion by washing your hands.  At the very least, use hand sanitizer.

Prevent contagion by washing your hands. At the very least, use hand sanitizer.

Is it really worth going to work feeling sick and not up-to-speed?  How you feel will reflect in your job performance. Use sick time, if you have it. That's what it's for.

Is it really worth going to work feeling sick and not up-to-speed? How you feel will reflect in your job performance. Use sick time, if you have it. That's what it's for.


1Schaefer, Patricia. "The Hidden Costs of Presenteeism: Causes and Solutions." Business Know-How. Accessed March 4, 2013.

2All One Health. 2013. "Presenteeism." Webinar All One Health. Accessed March 5, 2013.

3 Schultz, A. B., C. Y. Chen, and D. W. Edington. "The Cost and Impact of Health Conditions on Presenteeism to Employers: A Review of the Literature." Pharmacoeconomics 27, no. 5 (2009): 365-378.

4"Going to Work When Sick May Lead to Future Absences."

5Kivimaki, Mika, Jenny Head, Jane Ferrie, Harry Hemingway, Martin Shipley, Jussi Vahtera, and Michael Marmot. "Working While Ill as a Risk Factor for Serious Coronary Events: The Whitehall II Study." American Journal of Public Health 95, no. 1 (2005): 98-102. Accessed March 3, 2013.

6Asfaw, Abay, Regina Pana-Cryan, and Roger Rosa. "CDC - NIOSH Science Blog – Making the Case for Paid Sick Leave." CDC - Blogs - CDC Blogs. Last modified July 30, 2012. Accessed March 2, 2013.

7Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Norovirus: Facts for Food Handlers." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 3, 2013.

8Jayaraman, Saru. "Fight flu, give restaurant workers paid sick leave -" - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Last modified January 30, 2013. Accessed March 5, 2013.

9Widera, Eric, Anna Chang, and Ellen L. Chen. "Presenteeism: A Public Health Hazard." Journal of General Internal Medicine 25, no. 11 (2010): 1244-1247. Accessed March 2, 2013.

10U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Table 6. Selected paid leave benefits: Access." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last modified March, 2012. Accessed March 7, 2013.

11Parker, Kim, and Eileen Patten. "The Sandwich Generation | Pew Social & Demographic Trends." Pew Social & Demographic Trends - Public Opinion Polling, Survey Research, & Demographic Data Analysis. Last modified January 30, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.

12Jena, Anupam B., DeWitt C. Baldwin, Stephen R. Daugherty, David O. Meltzer, and Vineet M. Arora. "Presenteeism Among Resident Physicians." Journal of the American Medical Association 304, no. 11 (2010): 1166-1168. Accessed March 8, 2013. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1315.

13 Aronsson, Gunnar, Klas Gustafsson, and Margareta Dallner. "Sick but yet at work. An empirical study of sickness presenteeism.." Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health' 54 (2000): 502-509. Accessed March 8, 2013.

14The University of Chicago Medicine. "Doctors Cite Concern for Patients, Colleagues Top Motives for Working Sick." Newswise: News for Journalists. Last modified June 18, 2012. Accessed February 26, 2013.

15Merrill, Ray. "Merrill: Curbing employee 'presenteeism'." The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City), January 15, 2013. Accessed March 3, 2013.

16All One Health. 2013.

17Hosier, Fred. "Tell co-workers -- anonymously -- to take their coughing and sneezing home » Safety News Alert." Safety News Alert - OSHA and safety news for workplace safety professionals. Last modified May 13, 2009. Accessed March 8, 2013.

18DeNoon, Daniel J. "The 6 Dirtiest Places in Your Office: Where Office Germs Lurk in Break Rooms, on Desks." WebMD. Last modified May 22, 2012. Accessed February 26, 2013.

Take to Your Sickbed If You're That Ill

Sometimes, time off to rest and recuperate is all you need.

Sometimes, time off to rest and recuperate is all you need.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 07, 2020:

Peggy - You too! I stay home as much as possible!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2020:

These are scary times for sure during this pandemic. I can understand why some people push the envelope, so-to-speak if they have few options such as unemployment benefits being available to them. We risked going to a grocery store recently, and it was like a zoo! No social distancing. We will do more curbside pickups in the future as we have done in the past. Stay safe!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 04, 2020:

Liz - Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I used to be an HR manager at a plant and attendance was a pain in everyone's rear ends, including mine. Some people came to work no matter what and got the rest of the workforce ill with whatever contagion they were carrying while others called in with such frequency and predictability (Mondays, Fridays, before or after big holidays) that they were summarily dismissed.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 04, 2020:

Very well said and researched.

There is a problem in this country with employers not giving adequate sick leave, and some none at all.

It's compounded by the fact of many, if not most, treating employees like children and requiring a doctor's note for an absence of (usually) 3 days or more.

For many, this is an impossible hurdle if they also lack adequate health insurance, and can't afford the out of pocket cost to go to the doctor.

It's also an unreasonable demand because after all, who goes to the doctor for s cold or the flu? Nothing the docs can do for either. It's the usual rest, and drink plenty of water advice.

Our healthcare system is broken, and clogging up the doctor's office with common ailments treatable at home is another bad idea...not to mention an appointment may not be available within the requisite time frame.

I agree with all your points, but I also think much of the onus rests on the employers.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 04, 2020:

Peggy - A relative conducts contact tracing and says that there are people who sadly do report to work trying to get one more day or so of pay, or maybe they think/hope it's allergies, or they are waiting on their test results only to learn later that it's positive. Others have been to hotspots like Florida on vacation and dismiss early symptoms as mere worry. They may not qualify for unemployment, they don't want to go on an unpaid LOA from work that some employers are forcing, so they just try to push through it. The relative told me to definitely stay away from Walmart and the grocery store.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2020:

Hopefully, with Covid-19 affecting the entire world, employees are no longer reporting to work (assuming they still have jobs) when ill. It could be life-threatening to others to do so!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2016:

Rajan - Yes, I've done it myself. So much pressure with some jobs to be there no matter what. Thanks for your comment! Have a great weekend.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 29, 2016:

Not many would vouch for not having reported to work sick at some point in their job. You lay down excellent reasons and suggestions for not doing it or taking the correct precautions if absolutely necessary.

Great hub!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 03, 2015:

Bill - For some it's work ethic, and for others it can be necessity to bring home money. Thanks for reading, Bill.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 03, 2015:

I decided to go back and take a look at your earlier writings. I admit, for many years, I went to work sick. Some work ethic my parents gave me forced me out of bed no matter how bad I felt. Then I became a teacher and realized that work ethic was not a good idea in a school environment. I've grown wiser with the years. :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 19, 2015:

PegCole17 - Sick people at work certainly do contaminate all the work surfaces. It would be fascinating to look at the place with a blue light. One of my past employers had a "use it or lose it" style sick leave policy and it was amazing how many people became ill during the holidays suddenly especially when the boss was also sick or on vacation. Thank you for stopping by! Have a great weekend!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 19, 2015:

Patricia - I'm glad there is some indication of change, at least where kids are concerned. Thank you so much for commenting, voting, and sharing.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 19, 2015:

Having a boss that makes you feel like a slacker when you call in sick really drives this in some offices. I worked for a guy like that for five years. Our staff would show up with all kinds of illnesses and contaminate the copier, the microwave, the coffee cups by touching all of them in getting theirs. On the other hand, some people called in sick once a week because they had sick time owed to them and they were determined to use it.

On your survey I thought that food handlers were the worst, although, going to work in a hospital when you're sick is totally inconsiderate of those with weakened immunities.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 19, 2015:

This is quite the article on a topic that often goes unaddressed I worked for years with those who were ill...we were chastised if we missed work so most of us tried to hide whatever our illness was.

The sad part is as you mention is that down the road it can lead to real serious health issues. I wound up with double pnuemonia and was hospitalized for weeks and off work for two months Generally I had no health issues. There had been times though when I had a bad respiratory infection and went to work, just like my coworkers.

Now the principals and even those at county level tell you to STAY home if you are sick...must have had an epiphany (sorry, don't mean to sound sarcastic but we were made to feel horrid if we missed when we were sick up until at least 2011 when I retired; now there have been massive outbreaks of flu and viruses causing 50 to 75 percent of students and faculty and staff to be absent so I guess they have wised up. Important topic flourish

Have a lovely day

Angels are winging their way to you this morning ps

Voted up+++ shared

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on February 16, 2014:

ologsinquito - That is so sad. Elderly patients are so vulnerable and catching a cold or flu could be life-ending.

ologsinquito from USA on February 16, 2014:

Sick employees who working in nursing homes or assisted living facilities should especially stay away. However, I know a nurse who said this is definitely not the case.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 11, 2014:

Emily - That is awful. Especially in childcare, they need quality employees who do the right thing. I hope you have a better employment situation now and please take good care of yourself so you get well soon.

emilybee on January 11, 2014:

I've never been as sick as I am now, working in childcare I constantly have something. And usually have to push thru it until it becomes really bad and I have to go see the doc. Last job I had I called out the day after Christmas, was legitimately sick; I pulled over at a Mcdonalds on the way to work where I got sick in the restroom, called out from my car after, and my boss said to me "yeah, this doesn't look good for you" . Needless to say I'm not there anymore.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 31, 2013:

Hi, Crafty - I'm so sorry to hear that you have been ill, especially at Christmastime. I hope you feel better soon. Have a happy and healthy new year!

CraftytotheCore on December 30, 2013:

Hi Flourish. I have been sick for the past couple of weeks. I finally dragged myself to the doctor two days before Christmas and found out I had bronchitis. We had a Christmas Eve party to go to. I didn't want to go and spread my germs. Two of the guests have cancer and are on chemo. I was thinking of them and how I didn't want to pass on my germs, but I did end up going. I just stayed in my own little corner. LOL

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 19, 2013:

Suzanne - Isn't it the pits when they're the boss? Mine used to sit in his office with a deep cough and all slurpy and think he was soldiering through it. He was miserable, grumpy, icky, and contagious. But otherwise a nice guy. Ha.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 19, 2013:

Heidi - If I were working beside someone with stomach flu, I might have to throw up. I'm highly suggestible that way. Just the sound or smell of it makes me queasy. I feel bad for you for ending up in urgent care; cannot imagine what restraint it may have taken in dealing with that person later on. Thanks for stopping by!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 19, 2013:

DzyMsLizzy - I hear you. I don't like when people tough it out and share their illnesses with half of the office and customers, too. There's no bravery in that.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 18, 2013:

I know of a few naughty people who pride themselves on coming into work sick and don't seem worried if they cough over everyone else. I have educated them by saying things like "but I don't WANT to catch your cold" and "you really should take some time off to get better and not infect everyone else around you". When faced with the worst, I huddle in a corner behind 2 monitors and try not to breathe in the germs. Voted useful!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 18, 2013:

Ugh! Stay home, sickies! My personal pet peeve is when those with stomach flu and the like come to work. Oh dear God! Don't even get near me. Had the "cruise ship" type virus once that landed me in urgent care. What a nightmare. Here's hoping that you're all feeling good for the holidays!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 18, 2013:

This has long been one of my pet peeves. Stay the eff home if you're sick! I don't want to catch what you've got! Employers are indeed often a fault for this, and one of their favorite tricks is to require a doctor's note.

WTH?? We're not in grade school, here; an adult knows when they are sick, and the responsible thing is to stay home & not spread it around. Who goes to the doctor for a stupid cold, or even the flu? You stay home and get over it. I suppose the employer thinks that requiring the note will end malingering on the part of some employees, but face it, that's a double penalty, especially for those without paid sick leave. On top of losing the wages, they have to pay for a doctor visit--not cheap. And, it clogs up the medical system with unnecessary visits.

A person's general work record will tell soon enough if there are excessive absences, and for frivolous reasons. Someone who is always out with the "Monday flu" or consistently "sick" on the same days as any major sporting events or concerts is suspect, and can be warned, or fired. It's not rocket science.

Voted up, useful, and shared like the dickens, in hopes that plenty of folks, including employers, will see this and take note!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 26, 2013:

moonlake - Yuck! That is the worst! I wonder if that may be a contributing factor in the use of debits and credit cards? But then again you've got to punch in those numbers on the keypads that everyone else has touched. There is just no winning, is there? It's a sick world.

moonlake from America on November 26, 2013:

I hate it when someone hands me back my change with a runny nose, drives me crazy. Great hub voted up.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 20, 2013:

Crafty - People certainly do seem to share their germs with coworkers and others rather than just stay at home and keep it to themselves. In the long run it's not helping anyone when sick people come to work and spread it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

CraftytotheCore on October 20, 2013:

Whenever my husband's co-workers get sick, he brings home the germs to me. I catch everything. One time when both of my children were small, I was sick for 9 weeks straight. When I was working in an office, I got sick and ended up with bronchitis. I was out of work for 5 days. Then, it came back two months later. I was out another 5 days, and I had no more time. That was the pits. But I felt it was better than contaminating the entire office and getting everyone else sick. Great Hub!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 26, 2013:

Indian Chef - Thanks for the information. That is interesting to know how other countries handle medical leave.

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on September 26, 2013:

Flourishanyways, we do get 10 days of full pay medical leaves in India per year. They get added on if you do not use them. Mostly Indians hardly change jobs so when they get to 45+ these leaves say grow up to 200 or more and in middle age or later you need them as then your heart or other medical problems start to kick in and you might be hospitalized for few days or need rest for few weeks. So people have to think ahead too.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 25, 2013:

Indian Chef - It amazes me the amount of responsibility that some people carry. Stress, combined with long hours, can certainly wear one down, and then to potentially be exposed to illness at work. In such circumstances it would be nice to have paid sick leave to recuperate and take care of one's health so you can get back to your busy lifestyle. Thank you for making us aware of other cultures' work-life balance situations. My best wishes to you.

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on September 25, 2013:

FlourishAnyways, I fully agree with you about the financial needs. In India it is common to be only earning member in the joint family, consisting of your parents, grandparents and kids. Also here we support kids till they finish college if not after. Yes a sick guy can not work with 100% devotion and if he is on some medicines which makes him drowsy then it can be hazardous for his health in some industries. A very useful hub. Voting it up and awesome.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 19, 2013:

RTalloni - Oh my goodness what a gross experience. At least you walked out. On the bright side, at least this person was visible to you instead of being hidden in the kitchen closer to you food where you may have been unaware of their condition. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience.

RTalloni on September 19, 2013:

Excellent--so glad to see this and I hope it is highlighted many times over. While it's not officially criminal, seeing people working in public places when they are wiping their nose/eyes, coughing, sneezing, sniffing should bring a penalization to employee and employer. We recently walked out of a restaurant that we very much wanted to eat in because we were greeted by a host who looked ill and was broken out around the mouth. No way were we staying, much less eating there. Am having trouble pinning right now but will try again with this hub.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 07, 2013:

Rohan - Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Reporting to work sick certainly spreads illness. I have seen bad colds, for example, passed back and forth in an office all season. Some got it worse than others.

Rohan Rinaldo Felix from Chennai, India on September 06, 2013:

A rare article addressing an issue that is seldom discussed... Kudos!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 09, 2013:

justmeSuzanne, I have had the same reaction to sick coworkers. With a compromised immune system (MS), if I catch whatever they are carrying, it might mean the loss of my sight, ability to walk, ability to use my hands, taste, etc. Maybe those things will come back, maybe not. It certainly will cost me more than over-the-counter meds or a routine doctor's office visit. I especially feel for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves (babies, elderly, critically ill). Businesses just need to give workers adequate paid sick leave.

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 09, 2013:

Oh thank you for this! These damned people are always so holier-than-thou about it, too! "I come to work when I have a fever of 105 and have to jump up to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes!" Great! You deserve a medal!

When I used to work outside my home, I would openly confront and shun them. It is soooooo inconsiderate to take your germs to work or out in the community and spread them all over everything! Not only that, it's dangerous. People with compromised immune systems, elderly people and babies can be seriously sickened or even killed by bacteria and viruses that would not ordinarily cause serious or lasting illness.

If you are sick, STAY HOME until you are well!

Voted up and awesome! :D

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 23, 2013:

Thank you, carolynkaye, for the read and the vote up. Hope you feel better soon!

carolynkaye from USA on April 23, 2013:

Really enjoyed this hub on a great topic. I'm still recovering from a bad flu I likely got from eating out last month. The thought of people in the food service industry going to work sick is pretty scary. Voted up!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 20, 2013:

Thank you, Indian Chief! I appreciate the comment and the read.

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on April 20, 2013:

Very nicely written n flourish anway

Michal from Miami, Florida on April 18, 2013:

I agree with the comments! Nothing drives me more crazy at work than when your coworkers show up hacking away. You know you are only a few days a way from getting what they have, then giving it to your family, etc. I am a consultant and work in a room with about 20 people on any given day. Some people think they are going the extra mile by showing up sick, but it really is inconsiderate! Great hub!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 18, 2013:

Thank you for the read, Careermommy!

Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on April 17, 2013:

Wow, this is a very interesting hub. There are always people coming into the office sick and the employees actually discourage it more the boss, but I think it does make a difference. What's the use in coming to work and infecting the whole office if it brings down productivity in such a negative way? I don't really think people realize it thought. This is a great article.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 17, 2013:

@Peggy W - I was especially yucked out by that one too. It might not be such a good idea to eat out a lot during cold and flu season. At the time I was writing this, a restaurant regarded as the world's finest, three years running -- "Noma" in Copenhagen -- sickened 63 with Norovirus. The cause for the outbreak was allegedly a sick kitchen staff member. Thanks for the read, Peggy W!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 17, 2013:

This sentence..."A 2011 CDC study found that 12% of nearly 500 food service workers surveyed acknowledged reporting to work with vomiting and diarrhea for two or more shifts." Yikes! This gives one pause for thought. It is amazing more of us do not come down with illnesses after eating out in restaurants!

All of the other reasons you cited for people who go to work when feeling ill are valid and should give those in charge something to consider. Policies need to be changed and of course, this impacts the bottom line of most businesses, so it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

As compared to many people who live in Europe, those of us in the U.S. get fewer paid vacation days on even taking those precious days to recover from illnesses leaves little left for real R&R.

You have certainly pointed out a wide spread problem and a few solutions. Up, interesting and will share.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 10, 2013:

Great idea for a hub. Maternity-related issues were one of the top employee complaints I used to investigate in corporate HR/Compliance -- not just issues with leave but also lactation accommodation issues once women came back to the office. As an investigator, I thought I had heard it all, but as a mother myself, I was sometimes dumbfounded by what I was hearing from some employees. Thank you for the suggestion.

Writerly Yours on April 10, 2013:

New York just passed paid sick leave for businesses with more than 15 or 20 employees. The thought that millions of employees did not have this is mind-boggling. But, it's necessary for all the reasons you stated.

I am really glad you wrote this article. Employees are forced into fear. They fear losing their jobs so they come to work sick and then the entire office suffers. Yet, I have seen people use their time legitimately and still be penalized. Same issue with maternity leave. You are punished for wanting a family and wanting to make a living yet we are supposed to be a family friendly country?

Thank you. I would love to read your thoughts about paid maternity leave once and for all in this country. I suggest a hub on maternity leave in America. I just had a baby and it was stressful being out for 3 months on disability and had to cut it short in order to go back to work. Paid leave would've helped a lot.

Jennifer Bird from Michigan on April 06, 2013:

Thank you for this hub! I actually dragged myself in to work sick earlier this week. I wanted to stay home, but I couldn't get anybody to cover for me. There are three people in addition to myself on staff who know my particular job - one was working his other job that day, one was out of town, and the other, even though he was in the building, said he was "too busy." Unfortunately, it's one of those jobs that HAS to get done for the good of the organization, so it would have been a huge production if I'd called off. I did what I could to avoid exposing everyone else to my germs (washed my hand frequently, avoiding touching as many things as possible, etc), but it was still a pretty miserable day.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 05, 2013:

Every place I have worked that offered sick time, it was limited to six days per year. One case of the flu pretty much wipes that out. Any time off in excess of that was not only unpaid, but also viewed as excessive absenteeism. No wonder people feel pressure to work sick.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 05, 2013:

Thanks for the read, Dolores. And they're slicing your lunch meat at the deli, baking your cakes and breads in the bakery, handling stock and (achoo) here's your change. Goodness knows how far it spread. I feel badly for those who don't have sick leave.

Lisa Kroulik from North Dakota on April 05, 2013:

At my last job, you could get fired for missing more than 3 or 4 days in a year, sick or not, so I can see why people do report sick to work. This article should be pasted to the wall of every manager who wants to act more like a drill seargeant.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on April 05, 2013:

I think the pressure to work when you are sick is just terrible. There was a very bad bug going around last fall into winter and I heard staff at a grocery store coughing their heads off. It sounded like a TB ward. Sure turned me off of shopping for my food there. Those poor people needed to be home and resting!

Tammy from North Carolina on March 16, 2013:

I wish more employers would see things this way. Very interesting hub!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 12, 2013:

Thank you! No one wants the server or cook wiping their nose then serving them dinner. Yuck.

Nancy Owens from USA on March 12, 2013:

Great hub! One of my pet peeves is employers who frown on employees who need to stay home because they are ill! Of course, we see a lot of abuse in this area as well, but when a person is truly ill with the flu or cold, they really should be allowed to stay home a day or two so they don't infect the entire staff. This pressure to come to work even when you are sick is very common in the lower paid, service jobs.