According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers’ compensation claims from “employees working at a diminished capacity” because of a flu or cold cost businesses $250 billion each year.

The report shows that sick workers usually perform below their normal standards and the likelihood for injury increases when employees try to work through a cold.

Despite the higher possibility for injury, more people are coming to work while they are sick for a variety of reasons.  Although many companies urge their employees to stay home if they are sick, the thought of work piling up or being viewed as “not dedicated” often pushes people to come in anyways.

“They’re often doing it out of a sense of loyalty to their employer and to their fellow workers,” said Pat Staaden, who operates a consulting firm in Plymouth.

Recession and Human Resource Changes Play a Role

The recession is one reason why employees are attempting to work through a cold, because they don’t want to be seen as expendable.  As the job market tightens, employees know their absence sometimes speaks louder than their presence.

A change in personal day policies may also account for more employees working with a cold.  More businesses are shifting to a Paid Time Off policy, which combines sick days, personal days and vacation days into one big pool of general time off.  The goal of Paid Time Off is to prevent sick days from being used as bonus days off, but now employees will work through a cold in order to save an extra day of vacation down the road, said Karin Kurt, former president of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources.

“[People] see it as a trade-off between a sick day and day of vacation, and they’re more inclined to focus on vacation,” she said.

Sick Children May Also be to Blame

Oftentimes employees are forced to take a sick day not because they are sick, but because their child is.

“I’ve run out of leeway,” said Marilyn Johnson of Minneapolis, who said she “already has spent more time than I should have” staying home to tend to her sick children.

While people like Johnson are forced to decide how to spend their precious time off, officials say personal hygiene can go a long way in keeping you healthy at work.  Washing your hands and keeping disinfectant wipes near your workstation can reduce contamination risks, said Dr. Melody Mendiola of the Hennepin County Medical Center’s clinic in Brooklyn Center.

“Practice good hand hygiene,” said Mendiola. “That’s the No. 1 thing.”

Related Source:  Star-Tribune