Most people have been there – they aren’t exactly physically ill, but they’re sick of the everyday nine-to-five hustle of the office, or if things have been particularly stressful at home, many feel the need to call in when they aren’t really sick. However, many people fall into the opposite camp – even when they find themselves truly ill from an injury or virus, they continue to go to work because they fear repercussions from their boss, they are overachievers, and some simply do not have much sick time. Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, says that situation is all too familiar for many workers, according to the BBC.
“I have also found that people who are very involved in their work and have workaholic tendencies are less likely to take time off sick, no matter how ill they feel. If your manager commonly engages in presenteeism, they may expect staff to do the same and their staff may be reluctant to take time off sick.”
While this may sound like heroism, risking passing your illness to the entire office is less than kind, and can even be perceived as selfish by coworkers. Plus, many coworkers may resent the employee who does this, feeling that they are “raising the bar” to an unachievable level that many cannot compete with. When employees come to work truly ill, they may be physically present but it is likely their productivity is suffering badly. Not many can think clearly or communicate well with a fever or while in serious pain.
Another issue is that even in developed countries, many companies do not pay “sick leave” until one has been working for a period of time, usually three to six months. Unfortunately, people cannot “time” when an illness strikes, and the stress of a new working environment may actually may make them more likely to become ill, Kinman says.
“This is a particular problem where workers are not paid while off sick, if their organization is understaffed, if there are punitive sickness policies, or if they work in helping professions such as health and social care.”
Fortunately, according to Cheatsheet, more employers are beginning to recognize the problem of lack of productivity when coming to work while sick, or worse, the negative psychological consequences of having to pretend to be sick in order to get a “de-stress” kind of day. A recent study showed that found that 38 percent of people who called in sick weren’t actually actively feeling ill – they had a routine doctor’s appointment, wanted or needed to run errands, or simply felt they needed a break. Another survey found that when a co-worker calls in sick, roughly 80 percent of their colleagues think they’re lying. That means that a full 40 percent of people who are actually ill are not believed to be telling the truth that they are ill.
As a result, more companies are recognizing the need to de-stigmatize the “call in sick days” and place them under a broader umbrella of “personal leave,” which could include illness, mental health days, time to take care of an important life matter, and similar situations.
Karen A. Young, author of Stop Knocking on My Door: Drama Free HR to Help Grow Your Business, said that the merger of sick and personal days encourage truthfulness in the workplace and increase productivity.
“It’s a matter of semantics, but calling them ‘sick days’ as opposed to ‘personal days’ tends to make employees fib. Sometimes we all need a mental health day away from work. From an employee relations standpoint, there is a stronger sense of freedom if I have time to use for personal reasons.”
Readers, what do you think? Would you be more productive at work if you had more personal leave versus just sick time?
[Featured Image by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images]