Illness Does Not Stop Most U.S. Workers From Going to Work

Dec. 27, 2012 — If you’ve ever gone to work sick, you’re not alone, according to a recent study commissioned by Cintas Corp. The survey, conducted online in November 2012 by Harris Interactive among 2,249 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, revealed that 84% of employed adults admit to having gone to work while sick. However, of those workers, almost half (45%) take no precautions to avoid direct contact with others in the form of shaking hands, fist bumps and so on. In addition, 45% of employed adults who have gone to work sick refrain from warning others of their illness.

“Workplaces can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria when workers engage in presenteeism, or attending work while sick,” said John Amann, vice president, first aid and safety, Cintas. “Since presenteeism reduces business productivity, it’s important for people to take the proper steps to protect themselves and others, like avoiding contact and warning co-workers of their illness.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. population suffers 1 billion colds each year. Colds and other contagious viruses have the ability to affect the workplace. Although not all employed adults avoid direct contact or warn others when they are sick, the report found that almost all employed adults who have gone to work sick do something to protect others. When asked which precautions they take to alleviate their own symptoms and avoid infecting others in the workplace, employed U.S. adults who have gone to work sick reported:

  • I regularly wash my hands/use hand sanitizer: 77%.
  • I sneeze/cough into my sleeve: 67%.
  • I bring my own medication to work: 54%.
  • I regularly wipe down my workspace: 34%.

Since the symptoms of illness can affect employees without warning, Cintas recommends organizations keep first-aid cabinets on site and well-stocked with appropriate products such as decongestant, cold relief and sore throat relief solutions.

“Employers that are proactive about properly maintaining first-aid cabinets demonstrate that they care about workers’ health and wellness,” Amann added. “By stocking cabinets for cold-weather months, employers can keep productivity on track, prevent the escalation of sickness and reduce OSHA-recordable cases.”

Contents © 2012 WorldatWork. For more information, contact the Copyright Department at WorldatWork.