Weekly Wrap: Managerial Malpractice? Letting Sick Employees Come to Work

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Are people busier on the job now than ever before?

It’s something I think about because I talk to a lot of people, and when I get them on the phone, the conversation always seems to get into how crazy busy they are at work and how it doesn’t seem like the craziness is going away anytime soon.

In fact, this ultra-busy business environment we all seem to be in now even popped up in a survey last week on people in the workplace who are sick with the flu.

60% go to work with the flu

According to the fifth annual Flu Season Survey from Staples (yes, the office supply store), despite the fact that 88 percent of managers encouraging sick employees to stay at home (and you are right to wonder about what those other 12 percent are telling sick employees), 40 percent of workers feel there is too much going on at work to stay away, and 31 percent show up sick because they think their boss appreciates it.

If that’s not more proof of how unbelievably busy we all are at work, I don’t know what is.

Overall, this year’s Staples Flu Season Survey found that 60 percent of workers go to work with the flu, and amazingly, that number is actually down from the 80 percent of flu sufferers who still went to work in 2013.

“While we are encouraged that for the first time in five years the number of sick employees coming into work has dropped, 60 percent is still a significant number,” said Chris Correnti, Vice President of Staples Facility Solutions, in a press release about the survey. “Clearly there is still much work to be done. Recent outbreaks such as Enterovirus in the U.S. underscore the importance of fostering a culture of workplace wellness. ”

Ahhh, yes, workplace wellness. That’s one of those topics that you hear a lot of talk about, but when it comes right down to it, way too many organizations aren’t willing to follow-up and really work to help make employees feel that they can really do what is right for their health, and ultimately, the business.

Sick employees at work worse than a security breach

That’s partly why everyone I talk to says they are crazy busy, even during the summer months when, traditionally, people were able to slow down a little bit when it came to work.

There were a few other findings in this year’s Staples Flu Season Survey that jumped out at me:

  • That sick employees coming into work considered worse for office productivity than a security breach. More than one-quarter of employees (27 percent) think that coming to work sick is worse for office productivity than a security breach, natural disaster, or product/service issue.
  • Presenteeism recognized as a bigger problem than absenteeism. More respondents feel that presenteeism — people going into the office when sick but not fully functioning — is a bigger problem than people being absent from work due to illness. This isn’t surprising considering that more than a third of respondents (36 percent) say that their personal productivity is less than 50 percent of their usual level when they show up with the flu.

There was a time in the distant past when I was one of those people who tried to gut it out and go to work when sick. I don’t do that anymore, and although I don’t get sick very often, when I do I try to take steps to knock it out as as quickly as possible. That means stepping back from work and concentrating on getting well.

Managerial malpractice

Although a survey that says 88 percent of managers are encouraging sick employees to stay home sounds good, it should be 100 percent. There’s no excuse for ANY manager to encourage a sick worker to continue to work, and it’s managerial malpractice to do so.

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Despite the improving numbers, Staples Flu Season Survey shows that there are still too many workers willing to go to work sick and risk infecting everyone else, and far too many managers ready and willing to let them do it.

Until we eliminate that entirely, all the discussion about workplace wellness will just be idle talk that some organizations continue to just pay lip service to.

Giving workers $1500 for vacation

Of course, there’s more than the latest workplace flu trends in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • The downside of generous perks. Most people don’t look at it this way, but those Silicon Valley-style perks at some companies have a downside to them, as The New York Times explains. “Upping the ante in what has been called a perks arms race is unlimited vacation time for some employees from such companies as Virgin, Netflix and the Ladders, while Facebook this year said it would reimburse its female employees up to $20,000 for freezing their eggs. Apple plans to follow suit in January. … (While) most of these incentives exist in the tech world or fields where there is competition to attract certain skilled workers … even in those industries, some say there is little evidence they motivate employees, and they can serve the more nefarious purpose of making sure employees rarely leave the office.”
  • What Peter Drucker knew about the 2020 workplace. The late Peter Drucker is known best as the father of modern management, but he also was pretty good at predicting the future, as Rick Wartzman points out in a recent HBR blog post. He says, ” It’s easy to forget how profound the emergence of the knowledge age really is. Ours is “the first society in which ‘honest work’ does not mean a callused hand,” Drucker noted. “This is far more than a social change. It is a change in the human condition.” But for all that, what it takes to manage effectively now is no mystery. We’ve been headed down this path for more than half a century. … Drucker suggested that our great transformation would be completed by 2010 or 2020. It is high time that management started acting like the clock is running out.”
  • Giving workers $1500 to go on vacation. Some might call this crazy, but AdWeek found “a California creative agency named thinkParallax (that) recently gave each one of its employees $1,500 and an extra paid day off to travel somewhere they’ve never been and get inspired. The catch? They have to blog about their journey.” According to the agency, “The goal of Parallaxploration is not only to ensure happy employees, but also to provide them with energizing experiences that will allow them to continue creating exceptional work for our clients.”
  • Kronos Time Well Spent cartoonKronos, the company that probably makes your organization’s time-and-attendance system, publishes a regular Time Well Spent workplace cartoon by Tom Fishburne. I post them here from time to time in the Weekly Wrap.tws25-600-dunktank