rant Uncategorized

The Common Cold Strikes

Over the last several weeks I’ve noticed that a large number of my clients and employees have come down with a bad cold. They have been dropping like flies.

We work in healthcare, so we should know how to deal with this kind of thing. If you are sick, stay home and rest. Recuperate. Above all, don’t try to be a hero and come to work when you’re sick; all you’ll do is pass on your germs to your co-workers. I get so annoyed when I see those cold medicine commercials on TV that promised to treat your symptoms so you’ll be able to go to work or continue with your routine. If you’re sick, you should rest and give yourself time to heal. Pushing through it is not a good solution.

Today I have a cold. A bad cold. Interestingly, last week I had three co-workers with bad colds who came to work and refused to stay home. They each eventually decided to take a sick day, but only after spending time in the office with a full blown illness. Believe me when I tell you that I encourage employees who are sick to go home and stay home! I was also in meetings with clients who clearly should have been at home but who claimed to no longer be contagious. I wasn’t convinced. If you need a good rationale for staying home from work when you’re under the weather, check out this article from Forbes, “Three Reasons to Stop Coming to Work Sick.”

In many ways, we have a warped perspective of health and healthcare in America. We need to start using common sense. When you’re not feeling well, is the best solution to rush to the urgent care and get a prescription for antibiotics, looking for the quick fix? Is it smart to dose yourself up with cold meds and then head to work? Or is it better to slow down for a couple of days and give your body a chance to recover? Drink fluids and get some rest. What’s so important that you can’t take care of yourself?

This phenomenon, where sick employees come to work, is known as “presenteeism.” Here’s an excerpt from an article about presenteeism from Harvard Business Review (October 2004):

“Presenteeism, as defined by researchers, isn’t about malingering (pretending to be ill to avoid work duties) or goofing off on the job (surfing the Internet, say, when you should be preparing that report). The term—which has gained currency despite some academics’ uneasiness with its somewhat catchy feel—refers to productivity loss resulting from real health problems. Underlying the research on presenteeism is the assumption that employees do not take their jobs lightly, that most of them need and want to continue working if they can.”

The same Harvard Business Review article cites a study that claims that presenteeism in the United States costs businesses more than $150 billion per year (Source: American Productivity Audit, Stewart). It’s worth noting that only some of that can be attributed to employees showing up for work with the flu, some bug or the common cold. But the point remains: people coming to work with a bad cold are not doing anyone a favor. Rather, they are most likely prolonging their illness and risking spreading that illness to their co-workers.

I’m done with my rant. Stay healthy. Wash your hands frequently. And if you’re sick, don’t come into the office! Do it for your co-workers.

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