Cure for Presenteeism? PTO.

sick in bedToday’s guest post is from our board member, John Hollon.  John is the VP of Editorial at TLNT.com and a frequent contributor to this blog.  As flu season commences, John reflects on how organizations can mitigate the problem of sick people coming to work and infecting their coworkers.  Spoiler alert: it’s about not penalizing employees for doing the right thing.

Now that the summer is gone and the fall is here, I’m reminded of the changing seasons by this annual event.

You know what I’m talking about.. No, not the fall colors or the cooler weather … but the signs hawking flu shots at just about every store, except maybe Macy’s, that I go into.

And that means that flu season is right around the corner.

Staples, the office supply company that put Dunder Mifflin out of business, always joins in the flu season fun with their sixth annual flu season survey that they released earlier this month.

The good news is that the survey found that a large majority of workers seem to have a great awareness of what they need to do to help prevent getting the flu, including that a whopping 90 percent of respondents “know they can protect themselves from the flu by eating right and washing hands regularly.”

The bad news, however, is pretty bad: Employees still come to work when they are sick.

Of the 30 percent of respondents who came down with the flu last year, “55 percent still went to work sick, and although 59 percent say they should stay home when sick for two to three days, only 43 percent actually do so.”

Yikes, if more than half of workers who get the flu are going to work with the flu, we have a big workplace problem on our hands.

Is there anything worse than getting sick – especially with the flu – and being dumb enough to take to work to share with all your co-workers?

Yes, there is something worse – being forced to come to work because you don’t have any paid sick days you can take instead.

Despite the push for more paid sick leave, or PTO, that we keep hearing about, far too many workers still don’t have any. As  this post on TLNT.com from earlier this year noted :

“Missed work due to illness costs employers in the U.S. $225 billion annually, and the cost of presenteeism – or diminished performance resulting from attending work sick or under the influence of medication – is estimated at $150 billion or higher.  We can do better than that. But wouldn’t more paid sick leave, let alone mandatory sick leave result in even more lost productivity?”

The answer to that, as TLNT points out, is a big fat “no,” because we have plenty of research showing that paid leave actually increases morale and productivity in addition to reducing absenteeism and turnover.”

The Staples survey makes it clear – workers know what they need to do to prevent getting the flu. But, all the knowledge in the world doesn’t help if employees know what to do but can’t actually follow through and do it because they have to work because they don’t get paid sick days.

Remember that when you get your next flu shot: Yes, prevention is great, but prevention without paid sick leave and the ability to stay home sick is only going to negate all that smart prevention and make us sicker.

 

 

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