Sick days aren’t so good now that you can work from home

Sick days aren't so good now that you can work from home

Remote working means people are less exposed to the germs that cause colds. (Representative)

A few months ago, it looked like the coronavirus pandemic would kill presenteeism – you know, showing up to work with a sniffle or cough to prove your worth or make sure you get your paycheck. Companies that didn’t offer paid sick leave were sure to be wise, realizing it was folly to create incentives for workers to spread germs at work, and Type A workaholics. would see that putting the whole office at risk of infection is more selfish than selfless. In the end, presenteeism has just had a new address: the kitchen table. “You are always expected to be accessible, because where else could you be?” says Leslie Perlow, professor at Harvard Business School. “There is nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.”

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working had started to reduce sick days. Slack messages saying “I have a cold brew so I’m going to work from home today” were already replacing “Hey, boss [cough, cough], I need phone calls for a sick day. A study from Stanford University in 2014 found that call center workers who worked from home spent more days because they stayed at work at times when they would have been too sick to come to the office. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that people with flu symptoms were more likely to work if they had the option of doing it from home. “When everything happens in one place, you no longer have that geographic boundary” between work and home, says Barbara Larson, business professor at Northeastern University.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says one in four businesses adopted more generous sick leave policies last spring as the coronavirus spreads. But instead of taking advantage of these rules, many sick employees simply continued to work at a zombie pace from the couch: An investigation by OnePoll on behalf of a cold remedy, ColdCalm, found that half of 2,000 respondents had quietly taken some sick days during the pandemic – without telling their bosses – and 7 in 10 said they worked while feeling unwell.

Remote working means people are less exposed to the germs that cause colds. That, added to social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks, has brought down influenza infections this winter. And part of the current reluctance to request time off may be because the severity of Covid-19 has changed the definition of what it means to be sick. With images of people dying on ventilators making sore throats insignificant, many workers fear bosses will frown on a sick day for nothing less than Covid. “If you call really sick, of course everyone’s first question is, ‘Is this Covid?’ “Said Larson.” People are reluctant to identify themselves as sick right now. “

But it’s not just contagious illnesses that can take a sick day: including back pain, allergies or depression, “95% of us have something,” says Ron Goetzel, director of the hospital. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institute for Health and Productivity Studies. He estimates that the reduced productivity of workers who come in with illness costs employers twice as much as treating these conditions. Migraines alone have resulted in losses of $ 45 billion per year in the United States and Europe, according to the Harvard Business Review, and nearly 90% of that amount comes from presenteeism.

Researchers studying cognition have found that being ill affects brain function just as much as drinking alcohol or having a sleepless night. These risks are probably even greater for knowledge workers who find it easier to work remotely because their work relies solely on gray matter. Still, employees shouldn’t be forced to take days off if they feel they can be productive for at least part of the day, says David Burkus, author of Leading From Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Managing Remote Teams.

For employees paid to achieve goals, and not dedicated to a certain number of hours, it is reasonable to work more flexibly – provided they let their colleagues know when they are available. “Remote work brings a lot of things back to the level of team culture, as opposed to organizational culture,” says Burkus, a former management professor who conducts training for managers of remote teams (remotely, well. sure). It can be difficult for workplaces to achieve this level of trust, forcing managers to lead by example, broadcasting when they’re offline and why – whether it’s a child care emergency, the flu or just need a break. “We have known for a long time that taking time off work improves work,” says Burkus. “I fully support Mental Health Days.”

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)