October 2, 2019

When Your Coworkers Come to Work Sick

Sick Coworkers

We’ve all had days at the office when we’ve had to avoid a sick coworkers to try and protect ourselves from the dreaded cold of flu they’re carrying. It’s also likely that at some point you’ve been the person everyone is avoiding. Showing up to work sick has become normalized behavior, and though none of us want to be on the receiving end of contagious germs, we continue to drag ourselves to the desk when we’re not feeling well. This is not only harmful to coworkers, but it can cost a business time and money. So what can you do to protect yourself when your coworkers come in sick? What measures should you take yourself when you are infected?

The Phenomenon Behind Turning up to Work Sick

Work-related issues, personal beliefs, and attitudes are the main reasons behind employees electing to turn up to work when they’re sick. A 2014 National Science Foundation (NSF) survey found that  26% of employees in America turn up to work regardless of being unwell, and 34% will only stay home once they are suffering the extreme consequences of their symptoms. The survey also found that 42% of employees chose to turn up to work sick due to deadlines and the concern of how much work they would have to do after a sick day, while 37% said they simply couldn’t afford to miss a day of work. Pressure from bosses to show up regardless of health issues was the reason 25% of employees gave for showing up to work sick. 

While many of us are guilty of dragging ourselves to the office when we’re contagious, on the flip side, 81% said they would be bothered enough by a sick coworker showing up to work to say something to them, and 57% would tell their sick coworker to go home. If you’re feeling run down, the NSF advises that the best option for yourself and your coworkers is to stay home as soon as you feel ill, because you are likely to be contagious at this stage. Ignoring the early signs and powering to work through your sickness could not only infect your fellow employees but also compromise your immune system further. 

How Contagious are the Common Cold and Flu?

If you wake up with a stuffy head, sore throat, achy body, or a cough, think twice before you convince yourself to go to work. Though you might feel well enough to conquer a day at the office, your symptoms, even mild ones, could be signs you are contagious and put others at risk of contracting the same virus or bacteria. 

It is important to be aware of when and how long you are contagious to ensure you keep your germs contained and lower the risk of infecting others. When infected with the flu, you’re typically contagious from around one day before your symptoms arise. You should wait between five to seven days after your symptoms to avoid spreading the flu. With a common cold, you’re first contagious about one to two days before the symptoms begin, and should allow about two weeks before declaring yourself non-contagious. A stomach virus should be treated the same as a cold, though you should wait up to two weeks after you’ve recovered to ensure your no longer contagious.  

Why Workplaces are a Hothouse For Pathogens

A cough or sneeze releases particles into the air filled with bacteria or viruses. These particles can travel up to 6 feet, meaning if you’re near a sick coworker, you are vulnerable to receiving a dose of what they’re carrying. Germs that have been transferred onto surfaces like a phone, door handle, or desk can last up to 24 hours – this makes workplaces an easy place to transfer viruses between people. Try to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth to avoid spreading any viruses or bacteria. 

The Flu Shot 

Unfortunately, you have no control over other people’s decisions to go to work when they’re sick, so taking measures to protect yourself is your best defense. The flu shot can be an effective way to protect yourself during cold and flu season. Some workplaces encourage or mandate that employees get a flu shot by offering them for free. The flu shot vaccine protects against three or four strains of influenza viruses that are deemed to be the most common for the season. The effectiveness of the shot can vary depending on a person’s age, how healthy they are, and what viruses are floating around at the time. 

Other Preventive Measures

If you aren’t comfortable having the flu vaccine, the NSF says the best thing you can do to avoid catching coworkers germs in your workplace is to take defensive measures such as proper hand-washing with soap and warm water, disinfecting common areas and surfaces such as the printer and copier. If you are the sick one, staying home as soon as you feel symptoms arise is the best option. But if you can’t avoid heading to work, be conscious of those near you. Washing your hands often, completely covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and disinfecting the common areas you are using are essential practices that can help protect colleagues from your germs. 

Another great way to protect yourself from the harmful pathogens that can be floating around your workplace during the cold and flu season is by wearing a nose filter. Nose filters are a discreet, effective option to protect against airborne particulate matter, viruses, pollution, and allergens. The O2 Nose Filter uses electrostatic technology to effectively capture pollutants, allergens, viruses, and other particulates, giving you all-day protection in any environment.  

Protect yourself this cold and flu season. Click here for a FREE (+S&H) sample pack to see which size works best for you!

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