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Study: 90 Percent Of Americans Go To Work Sick

Do you go to work when you're not feeling well? You're not alone.

A new survey shows that rather than calling in, 9 out of 10 employees report to work when they're sick. Even when it’s the flu.   "90 percent of employees surveyed admitted coming to work, at least sometimes, with a cold or flu symptoms. We also found out that 33 percent always come into the office sick."

Northeast District President of human resource consulting firm Accountemps Richard Deosingh  says it’s all too common for employees to come to the office feeling sick when they really should be resting. Why?  3 "Number one, just a workload that they can't accommodate while being out. Number two, maybe their bosses aren't leading by example, meaning when they're sick they come in, so these employees are forced to come in. Number three could very well be the fact that they just don't have the ability to work from home or they don't have paid sick days. Maybe it's grouped into just vacation days, so they don't wanna burn any. It could be any of those reasons."

The survey found more than half of those who report to the office with a cold or the flu said they do so because they have too much work on their plate; another 40 percent don’t want to use sick time.   "In the Northeast, in New York, specifically, 90% of the individuals polled admitted coming to work with some type some type of flu symptom. And in Boston 85% admitted, doing the same. You know, what's interesting is the survey let us to  see that 90% of employees admitted coming to work with a flu symptom, which was actually up. When we last did this survey about two years ago, it was 85%. So that number has crept up."

Albany Medical Center's director of epidemiology Rebecca O'Donnell offers some general guidelines. She says stay home if you have a high fever.   "If you have a fever and a respiratory symptom, that fever is the real indication that this may be something more than the common cold. So we're asking you to stay home with that fever until 24 hours after that fever has come down without the use of Tylenol and Motrin. So that's really what we educate our healthcare workers to, that high fever. You could be transmitting, you know, flu or another respiratory virus as your feverish so that's, that's kind of how we judge who should and who shouldn't be working with maybe sometimes common cold like symptoms, but, overall the blanket statement is, if you have any respiratory symptoms to use, good hand hygiene, a mask to protect other co-workers and you know our patients, and then stay home when you're not when you're you know, have more than just cold like symptoms.”

Deosingh offers a few tips to stave off winter sickness: eat healthier, avoid stress whenever possible, and get a flu shot.

  •   The online survey cited in this article was developed by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from 2,800 workers 18 + and employed in office environments in 28 U.S. cities.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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