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Why do ill people still come to work?

Once you start experiencing symptoms such as a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, and body aches, it’s hard to deny that you have a cold or flu. However, many people try to ignore their symptoms so they can still go to work. They continue to show up at the office, doing what they can to get through the day regardless of how awful they feel and how badly their body needs to rest and recover. But if they feel so bad, why would they want to go to work in the first place?

In this Pacific Prime Thailand article, we’ll take a look at why ill people still come to work and what can be done about it.

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The stigma surrounding sick days

When a person calls in sick, some colleagues will assume they’re either faking it or that they’re weak. But if they don’t call in sick and come to the office despite their obvious sickness, their colleagues may gossip behind their back saying they’re spreading germs everywhere.

Our work culture is responsible for creating a stigma around sick days, or even taking time off in general. Fear of judgment and lack of trust from bosses can cause employees to show up at work even though they are sick.

The flu season, which occurs in each hemisphere during the cold half of the year, marks the time of the most absences. Due to the cold and dry air, the influenza virus transmits at a faster rate. Medical professionals agree that staying home during the initial stages of the flu is crucial for the health of the affected person and their colleagues. After all, once a person catches the virus, they are most contagious for the following two days.

Despite this, many employees lie to their managers about the reason behind their absence when they call in sick. But the reality is that people get sick and they need to take a break from their regular lives to fully recover. The notion that health is more important than work is often discussed, but it seems as though it’s something that’s said to sound good, instead of something that is actually practiced.

The presenteeism problem

In 2018, a survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development found that presenteeism had more than tripled over the last ten years. 86% of over 1,000 of the study’s respondents said they noticed cases of presenteeism in their companies during the previous year, which dramatically increased from 26% in 2010.

When you consider the lack of support or understanding that managers show, it’s easy to see why employees would worry about calling in sick. Employers have to trust employees to take time off when they are sick and, when possible, consider letting them work from home.

What’s more, enabling presenteeism could end up costing the company far more than fostering an environment where employees feel free to take sick leave when necessary, since contagious employees can infect others. To top it off, allowing people with mental health issues or other illnesses to take time off early on may result in a shorter recovery time down the line.

According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh, workplace flu cases can increase by up to 40% if a contagious person spends the day at the office. During the study, a “one or two flu day” scenario, which enabled participants to stay home and recover, resulted in about a 25% drop for a one-day policy and an almost 40% drop for a two-day policy. Steering clear of practicing presenteeism also have long-term benefits to the health of the office.

For any employees whose employers pressure them to show up at work regardless of their health status, one important step they can take towards prioritizing their health and productivity, as well as that of their coworkers, is to know how to communicate their needs for time off in an effective way.

What should employees do if they are sick?

Experts believe that employees should notify their bosses as early as possible. Establishing open communication with a manager at the beginning of sickness conveys respect and gives them more time to deal with the absence. Most importantly, being honest is the ideal way to avoid misunderstanding, judgment, or resentment.

There are two kinds of managers. The first believes that employees do not want to work and therefore require a lot of rules. These managers naturally assume the worst, especially when it comes to using sickness as an excuse to get out of work.

The other type of manager aims to have reasonable standards and trust employees to be responsible. The managers themselves are responsible for forming a culture where employees feel like they can take time off.

Leading by example is the best way for these types of managers. That means when they are too sick to work, they must stay home and completely offline, so employees know they can do the same when they are sick. It’s also crucial to refrain from contacting employees who are on sick leave unless the matter is truly urgent.

Finding the right balance requires employers and employees to work together. Before adding more pressure, both parties must consider the wellbeing and responsibilities of the other. It is imperative to lower instances of presenteeism, especially during the dreaded flu season. Employees want to feel cared for, and a good boss that shows empathy and understanding can help build a strong bond.

Health insurance in Thailand

Paying for doctors’ visits is another reason why employees don’t want to use their sick days. With expensive healthcare and sick leave stigma to worry about, it’s not surprising that many employees would prefer to go to work instead. By offering corporate health insurance in Thailand, companies can help keep their employees healthy and happy.

As a leading broker, Pacific Prime Thailand compares international health insurance companies in Thailand to help you find the right policy for your needs and budget, whether you’re looking for expat health insurance, family health insurance, and more. Contact our team of experts to receive impartial advice or a no-obligation, free quote today.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Thailand
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.