Flu, Shmoo: Study Says 90 Percent of Workers Go to Work Sick

Feeling ill? It could well be a coworker’s fault. A new survey of office workers found that most are likely to report for duty even when sick so as not to fall behind.

Each year [flu season] causes an estimated 70 million missed workdays and billions in lost office productivity.

An overwhelming majority of office workers go to work sick, according to the fourth annual “Flu Season Survey” conducted by office-supply store Staples.

Almost 90 percent of workers, up from 80 percent last year, go into work when they know they are sick, and even if they do stay home, a majority stay out of the office fewer than two days, the study found. Forty-five percent of workers said they returned early because they didn’t want to fall behind in their work.

“Flu season poses a big problem for businesses,” Lisa Hamblet, vice president for facility solutions at Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, said in a statement. “Each year it causes an estimated 70 million missed workdays and billions in lost office productivity.”

While it can be difficult to predict the severity and timing of influenza outbreaks, flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and usually peaks in January or February each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an effort to help monitor and track outbreaks, the American Public Health Association, in collaboration with the Skoll Global Threats Fund and Children’s Hospital of Boston, launched a user-contributed log of U.S. flu data two years ago. The “Flu Near You” tool provides registered users with a weekly flu “forecast” in their area and around the country.

In addition to monitoring outbreaks, one of the surest ways to prevent the flu is to get a yearly vaccine. The CDC estimates that in the last 12 months roughly 30 percent of adults ages 18-49 and about 40 percent of adults ages 50-64 have received flu shots.

The Staples study also found that some workers would like employers to provide additional precautions, such as hand sanitizer in common areas and touch-free restroom features. Staples suggested that employers provide sick employees with the option to telework and encourage them to rest, as productivity can drop to below 60 percent when a worker is sick.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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