As the temperature drops, employees need to be more conscious of their health, particularly if it means keeping their coworkers from getting sick.
However, nearly 80% of employees are still going to work sick, according to Staples’ annual cold and flu season survey.
Despite being aware of the dangers of coming into work with a cold or the flu, along with prevention tactics, employees say workload pressures continue to keep them in the office.
About half (41%) of employees felt there was too much to be done at work to take a sick day, even though nearly 74% of employers provide designated sick days.
“Managers need to lead by example and stay home when they are sick, and both employees and employers need to be held accountable for keeping germs at bay in the workplace by providing the right tools to maintain a healthy workplace,” says Chris Correnti, vice president of Staples Facility Solutions at Staples Business Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples.
Employers can take a few steps to ensure their workforce remains healthy.
Express Scripts Holding Co., the largest pharmacy benefit management organization in the United States, has hand sanitization stations throughout the office to remind employees to wash their hands, even if they don’t have soap and water immediately on hand.
Kyle Amelung, a senior clinical consultant at the company, suggests hanging up signs in the bathrooms to remind employees to wash their hands if sanitization stations aren’t feasible.
He also recommends that employers provide flu shots to the workforce at low or no cost, noting on-site vaccinations can help keep the workforce healthy.
However, only two of every five children and adults in the United States were vaccinated by early November 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lack of vaccinations can lead to the spread of germs among employees.
Staples’ findings showed that 73% of employees have caught a cold or the flu at work, and nearly one-third (32%) blamed coworkers for getting sick last year.
“Employees need to understand that their health comes first,” he says. “If that declines, everything else can decline.”
The cost of working while sick
Productivity is one aspect that declines severely when an employee is sick.
Moreover, 67% of employers said an unproductive sick employee is worse for business than an employee who stays home and doesn’t work, according to the Staples survey.
“A healthy employee is certainly going to be more productive,” Amelung says. “Even when employees are sick, certainly we all know eight hours isn’t eight hours across the board.”
The stress from the winter months, specifically around holiday season, is also bound to bring on decreased sleep, unhealthy eating and increased alcohol use among workers, Amelung says.
“Employers should have a sense of the workflow of their season to take into better account their employees’ health,” he says.
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