Sick at Work: Too Many People Are Coughing in the Office

Are you coughing, sneezing, sniffling and achy — and working? Or, are you enduring the symptoms of a coworker who is sick at work, giving him or her the side-eye as you try to avoid catching the bug?

Unfortunately, going to the office while under the weather has become an epidemic unto itself. Despite illness, 70 percent of workers admitted frequently going to work when they should be taking care of themselves at home, a Robert Half survey reveals.

What's more, managers are aware of their sickly employees, with 65 percent reporting that they know ailing employees head into the office at least somewhat frequently.

A look at the demographics

Apparently, age matters. Workers between the ages of 35 and 44 are the most likely to show up sick at work. Eighty-eight percent of this group report doing so, more any other age demographic. 

"Many professionals fear falling behind or feel that they can't afford to take a sick day, so they head into work when they are under the weather," said Robert Hosking, a Robert Half executive director, who conducted the survey. "Managers should encourage their teams to stay home when they are sick. Let staff know that there's nothing heroic about spreading colds and flus."

Here are five tips to help maintain a well workplace:

1. Address the issue head-on

At the start of cold or flu season, remind staff to avoid spreading illness throughout the office by staying home when they are sick.

2. Model the behavior

If you're a manager, resist the urge to come in sick. If you do, employees will assume the same is expected of them.

3. Give 'homework'

Offer those suffering from minor ailments the ability to work from home, if possible. They may be less likely to come in and infect others if they don't have to use sick days.

4. Keep it clean

Encourage staff to clean up common areas, like break rooms, and make hand sanitizer available to avoid the spread of germs.

5. Have a back-up plan

Identify team members who can take over responsibilities for sick employees to avoid backlogs. Or hire temporary professionals to keep projects on track.

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