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Sick and tired at work

 

Feverish and coughing, employees show up at work with the flu and colds, potentially exposing colleagues. Sometimes, they don't have much of a choice.

By Stephen Smith | December 19, 2005

 

There's one in every office, factory or school: The colleague who slumps in the neighboring cubicle hacking and sniffling and wheezing, a mound of tissues rising like a viral mountain range.

 

Go home, already, you think to yourself. Instead, your colleague slogs through the day as the fog of flu or a cold rolls in, enveloping the workplace.

 

There's even a name now for the phenomenon: presenteeism. It's when people who should be absent from work or school -- because they're contagious or feeling so lousy they can't do their jobs -- aren't.

 

''Presenteeism may be a more significant issue than absenteeism, and that's a pretty bold statement, I realize," said Roslyn Stone, chief operating officer at Corporate Wellness, a provider of health services to upward of 1,000 employers. ''There are more people who come to work sick than call in sick on certain days, and that's pretty shocking."

 

And with the specter of a global flu epidemic hovering, that's more alarming than ever. Just two weeks ago, federal health authorities intensified their campaign to help workers and their bosses figure out when they should stay at home rather than coming into work, imperiling their own health, getting little work done, and spreading their germs.

 

But the realities of the modern workplace make this much more than a simple matter of personal responsibility. Millions of US employees don't get paid if they take a sick day. And millions more now have all their time off -- vacation days, personal days, sick days -- lumped into a single pot, meaning the more sick days they take, the fewer vacation days they'll get.

 

''People say, 'I'm not feeling great, but I've got to get in, other people are depending on me,' " said Walter Stewart, an epidemiologist who has extensively studied workplace health issues for Geisinger Health System, an operator of hospitals and medical practices in Pennsylvania.

 

''But by going in," he said, ''you may be doing harm to yourself and to others."

 

That exacts a cost from employers and employees alike. Stewart surveyed 29,000 workers, asking how their health affected their jobs. His findings: Health problems, from cancer diagnoses to backaches to the flu, result in $225 billion in lost work time annually in the United States. And most of that -- 71 percent -- can be traced to workers who showed up feeling punk, largely because of respiratory and gastrointestinal bugs.

 

Just ask Stone of Corporate Wellness.

 

One afternoon last week, the phone rang in her Mount Kisco, N.Y., office -- and rang again. Two companies, same problem.

 

At an Atlanta firm, a worker had come down with a stomach virus and stayed home from work for a day.

 

''But then the worker came back to work the next day," Stone said. ''Magically, three days later, five or six co-workers developed the identical symptoms."

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This really gets my goat.

 

At my place of work there are currently three or four different fieries doing the rounds, and people are struggling in with each one. I don't know much about biology, but from past experience all this means is that the three or four will turn into ten or twenty as they all intermingle, and basically every department is going to be running with people off until about March.

 

Some managers are really good and send you packing as soon as they realise you're not 100%, but most just let you carry on, and unless they actually find you unconscious at your desk, don't give a monkey's. They don't seem to get the economics - if one person comes in and passes on their lurgy, you're going to lose an entire department a couple of days later...

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As a supervisor I had a member of staff come in who looked really ill - grey he was. He was only a youngster and he worked like a trojan normally so I knew he wasn't swinging the lead. I asked him what was wrong - pleurosy (sp?). So I told him to go home, but he wouldn't because the company only paid SSP. So I went to see my boss who reminded me that the company only pay SSP. I gave the boss a long lecture on how good we would look if this guy collapses and has to be carted off in an ambulance. I was then sent to another boss who read me the SSP blurb. I went through the same ritual with her and eventually the two bosses' combined brainpower worked out that sending him home for 3 days might be a better option than listen to me moan incessantly at them. Hooray for commonsense - eventually.

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When you return to work at the SIC you fill in a self declaration form. So far so good - that's reasonable to ask for, no problem filling it out (except for spelling diarea,no diahorrea, no diorhhea, damn it - skitters)

 

Recently they have added a line asking if the absence was work related. Now think about it - if it was, do most people want to admit it on a piece of paper which goes round the office? I don't think that they will get the information they are looking for by asking like that.

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Recently they have added a line asking if the absence was work related. Now think about it - if it was, do most people want to admit it on a piece of paper which goes round the office? I don't think that they will get the information they are looking for by asking like that.

 

I had that at my old work no-one filled it in if it was work related. I really don't think putting that in helps at all. Ihave to admit to going into work with colds and viruses but I'm usually the only person at work as the rest are at appointments so I try not to be off ill unless it's really bad.

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When you return to work at the SIC you fill in a self declaration form. So far so good - that's reasonable to ask for, no problem filling it out (except for spelling diarea,no diahorrea, no diorhhea, damn it - skitters)

 

Recently they have added a line asking if the absence was work related. Now think about it - if it was, do most people want to admit it on a piece of paper which goes round the office? I don't think that they will get the information they are looking for by asking like that.

 

 

How about the back to work interview at the SIC. there was one moron who told one man after being of work with the flu that he must do better even if he had to come in on his hands and Knees as if the flu bug would say to if self “Hold on this guy was off last week so we will give him a miss this week.â€

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Oh joy for the retarded associate director that I had to put up with at HBOS!

 

I got hauled into the board room one day to be told that under no uncertain circumstances was I to take off a day as a holiday if I were sick! I tried to explain that it was her own boss that had given me the holiday (since she was off frigging around with her new baby for a week), that it was my holiday to take, and that I had come in in the morning worked half the day and so was by the rules actually entitled to have the day off "free" as such!

 

"no, no, that just doesn't cut it" ... "blah blah" ... "if it happens again HR will have to be involved" ...

 

Good lord! I had been working for her boss for the past year (the director) and had a great working relationship ... this woman back from maternity was beginning to drive me insane!

 

"Ok, is that it then?" .. and off I trundled muttering under my breath at her sheer incompetant management skills!

 

As I sit down I get called over to her desk to look at the spreadsheet she must fill in and send off to state a sick day (her boss had allready done this!).

 

She waffles ... "See these days here *points at days off*, you've never had a day off until now. See this part here *points at section detailing too many days off*, if you have too many days off then this will flag up here and HR will have to be involved."

 

"Ahh", I say.

 

She continues to waffle, "So if you were to have too many days off you should take off some of your holidays to compensate!".

 

8O Eh? Is that not what we were having a heated discussion about in the boardroom that I shouldn't do about all of 5 minutes ago?!?!

 

Crazy!

 

Only sideways job prospects for you! Methinks you've reached your level of incompetance, my dear!

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I've opinions, most of which are probably best kept to myself (since i want to keep my balls), about certain types of insecure women (although obviously not all women, he added hastily) in positions of power...

 

It's not easy for women at the top though. If I was faced with daily discrimination I'd probably be inclined to treat my subordinates differently, although I'm not sure I'd adopt the same nit-picking, officious and damn right incompetent approach adopted by 3 of the 4 female bosses I've had...

 

(the 4th was easily the most professional and competent boss I've known I may add - before i get lynched for being sexist!)

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I ran the design studio for a packaging manufacturer - glamorous or what - designing rubbish.

 

One of the things that really jacked me off about the company was the fact that I had to print the proposed artwork onto a sheet of headed paper. Totally unprofessional as far as I was concerned as the drawing would be attached to a letter on headed paper, but they insisted.

 

The MD had a secretary who had a glass topped desk, wore extremely short skirts and hold ups. If she ever wanted anything from the MD she would slide down in her chair so that the MD got a good eyeful. Being a complete and utterly shallow tw*t he fell for it every time. When she tried it on me I made sure that I didn't look directly but started to sniff as though I had smelt something disgusting (imagine a kipper on a hot pavement!).

 

I had decided to leave to find a job in IT as I didn't want anything too masculine :wink: so I had handed my notice in, but working out the notice was becoming a real struggle. I knew that this dozey tart, who called herslef the MDs PA and was horrified when I referred to her as the MDs typist, would be my root out of there.

 

She treated me like her personal slave and came to my department and told me to do some designs for a customer, but she obviously hadn't done the maths. It meant that I had to turn out 300 drawings. I was using CorelDraw and most of the drawings were done. It was just a case of adding artwork in different styles. I printed out the drawings to 300 sheets of headed paper and dumped this wad on her desk. I returned to the studio grinning like a fool.

 

Ten minutes later she burst through the door in and started yelling at me about how stupid we would look send 300 sheets out to the customer. I stopped my colleague who was chatting to another colleague and asked him to listen to the abuse I was getting. I was loving it as I had obviously wound her up. She left the room and went back to her office.

 

I told my assistant that the phone would ring. It would be the MD and that I would be called to his office. Sure enough the call came and I was told to report to the MD.

 

I went to his office and he slammed the wad of paper down on his desk and asked what I thought I was doing. I picked up the wodge of paper and kept throwing it down on his desk severy few wrods I shouted at him. I stopped talking and wandered out of his office back to the studio. Ten minutes later the Production Manager came to my desk and asked me to leave the building and telling me that there would be no need to work out the last 10 days of my notice.

 

Three days later the MD's typist wandered into the studio and said to my oppo "he set me up didn't he?" Dozy Tart!!

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