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Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have immortal longings in me



So I’ve got a cold.  It isn’t the flu and it isn’t the end of the world.  But it is annoying. 

I came down with it last Tuesday night and had a really bad sleep. On Wednesday I only had a couple of meetings, so I worked at home, cleared down the email inbox, did a bit of reading, things that I seldom have time to do.  Other than that I’ve been in work.

I have a two-hour commute each way, on a train and a tube.  I meet people at work on an hourly basis.  I’m coughing and spluttering.  I will have passed my germs on to at least one other person during that time. FACT.

So have I been irresponsible? Should I have stayed at home? And how do you know when it is ok to go back into work or not? Is the need to be at work and alleviate the pressure on your co-workers greater than the need to not contaminate them?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    07/06/2010 08:19

    The idea seems to have taken root that you must drag yourself into work regardless of what is wrong with you; that if you don’t you are somehow letting everyone down and worse.

    Rather like bananas for you, this is one of my pet rants. I have lost count of the numbers of colds I have caught travelling to and from meetings in London on the train. It is utterly thoughtless and inconsiderate to risk infecting other people when everyone is crowded together in close proximity. There should be a law against it!

    In this age of technological wonders, it is possible for many people to work from home very effectively (even more effectively in some cases) and there is really no excuse for sitting in a crowded train infecting other people.

    Even if one must travel to work for whatever reason, then the onus should be on the employer to make alternative travelling arrangements so that the general public are not subjected to the plague carrier. Hmmm, I rather like that idea… employers will quickly decide that your presence in the office today is not that vital if they have to pay for it!

    I shall retire now and ponder further ranting on the subject…

  2. 07/06/2010 08:20

    This is a nice post Theo, but the question is not as simple as it first looks. Different organisations have very different sickness policies, which in my opinion, has a huge influence on the actions of the employee.

    I have worked for totalitarian retail regimes, where 2 separate occasions of sickness within 4 months results in you being placed ‘on report’ with the threat of disciplinary action should you incur any more absences within an agreed time period. There was also a report published recently that claimed sickness absence fell during the recession, with poorly workers coming into the office from a job security perspective – “If they axe falls, it’s blatantly going to be so-and-so from accounts who’s always off sick – I’m struggling in whatever.”

    Conversely, I currently work in a very people-centric business, where the culture is much more caring. Obviously one cannot take the proverbial, but there is no such disciplinary procedure and HR actively encourages us to stay away from the office if we are feeling really sick.

    Personally? I think that the advent of mobile working means more of us can indeed have a productive day at home, which has the added benefit of avoiding infecting our colleagues with the bubonic plague. However organisations differ in their HR policy and for me, I’ll continue to make my stay at home / come into work decision based on how likely I am to get bollocked for it. For now, I am a stay-at-home-and-work-remotely kind of sickie.

  3. BJH permalink
    07/06/2010 08:41

    A few random thoughts/considerations from me …

    When I was the mother of a young child, I always dragged myself into work when I was ill as it was odds on that my child would catch the illness from me and then I would have no choice about staying home. At least by dragging myself in whilst I was ill I didn’t take such an extended absence.

    Many people are contagious before they have any symptoms, so if they are going to infect others they’ve often done so before they even knew they were ill.

    Many employers are not sympathetic and expect all the work missed to be made up “yesterday”, so having come back from three days absence due to a cold, you then have to work 10-12 hours a day to make up the lost time and end up with a stress illness.

    Not all employers pay company sick pay and SSP is close to no pay. My finances are so tight that I can’t afford that unexpected drop in income.

    So for me, unless I have a migraine (a rare but disabling event for me) or an illness requiring close proximity to a bathroom, I’m likely to drag myself in.

  4. 07/06/2010 11:55

    Interesting thread. I was going to glibly stay you should stay at home if you’re infectious but if you’ve got a fascistic absence management regime and it’s the third infection you’ve had this year then I can see there are issues there. Not to mention the problems you raise about letting colleagues down and then having to catch up with all the work you didn’t get done anyway. But I still think the answer is to stay home till you’re past the infectious stage and I think occupational health people will back me up on that.

  5. KBMayes permalink
    07/06/2010 20:44

    With tounge firmly in cheek – do what your GP advises on your Fit Note as they are obviously trained occupational health advisors

  6. Aussie HR Chick permalink
    07/07/2010 03:52

    (I preface my statements with the fact that we have up to 6 weeks a year of various leave credits to draw on. And my employer allows leave in advance for those that require it. On the other side of the coin, I remember being a poverty stricken uni student back in the day, working in a casual position. I would go to work when very sick knowing that when they sent me home 20 minutes in they had to pay me for a minimum of 3 hours, so at least I didn’t lose a full days pay….)

    Hate to say this HRD, but I’m not sure that all the people who are now sick appreciate your dedication to coming into the office.

    These are my personal rules on sickness…..
    If you’re infectious you should stay away (obviously)
    If you’re not infectious but too sick to be reasonably productive stay away
    If you have a cough or splutter that is so loud or yukky that it impacts on the productivity of others stay away – work from home
    But if its just a cold, you’ve controlled the symptoms with whatever method works for you, your brain is functioning just enough, and you’re not infectious, go to work.

    Oh – and you actually recover quicker if you stay home and rest.

    Speaking as somone who’s just had time off work due to sick people coming into the office and infecting the rest of us – I think you let people down MORE when you share sickness with others. Instead of rescheduling the few meetings they would have had with you they’ve had to put ALL their work on hold for however long they are off for and this ripples across their colleagues, underlings etc etc. (the only exception to this of course is younger brothers – all illnesses should be passed on to younger brothers – especially chickenpox )

    And – Managers – for gods sake, if someone comes to work really sick SEND THEM HOME.

    /rant over

  7. 07/07/2010 09:13

    @Mark – Bananas are worse… far. But I like the idea of placing the cost on businesses….although I’m not sure how practical that would be!!! I think some of the later comments deal with work environments and tolerance of sick days.

    @Cal – Good points and interesting from an “employee” perspective that policies tend to have an influence on your attendance (but I guess also you attitude to that company too?) I once spent time with an organisation that had a long bench outside the manager’s office, above which was a sign that said “we are sorry you have been unwell, please sit here until someone can come and see you”. It was just opposite the staff canteen……talk about the naughty step!

    @BJH – Really interesting comments, especially on being a parent. The sacrifices we have to make. And also on sick pay, which must have such an impact, again not only on attendance, but on attitude to the organisation.

    @Noel O’Reilly – Thanks for bringing an OH persepective Noel. I wonder whether there has ever been any research done on looking atperiods of infection from the most common ailments and company sickness procedures? Surely it must be possible to get to something approaching an “ideal” short term absence policy?

    @KBMayes – You win the prize for the first mention of the dreaded “fit notes”!

    @Aussie HR Chick – Oh well…..too late now…. But I think your general guidance is pretty sensible (with the exception of the younger brother bit – I am a younger brother). And so unlike you to have a rant too!

    • Aussie HR Chick permalink
      07/07/2010 23:35

      I’m still sick. It makes me bitchy.


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