Managers love to see an office full of happy, healthy employees. Which is fine, a lively, buzzing office is something it's hard for bosses not to love. What's not so great, however, is when that office is only full because an employee has shown up for work despite being sick and is dragging their way through the day while quite possibly infecting the rest of the office.
The Problem With Sick Employees
Sick employees can be an outright hazard. Even if they are not actively infectious – which with colds and flus they absolutely are – however hard they try they will be less productive and may lower the morale among the rest of the staff as working next to a coughing, sneezing colleague is never fun.
So, sick employees should stay home. But often they don't. In fact, according to one study on any given week over three million American workers head to work sick. Why? For some it's because they want to impress with their dedication. For others it is because they don't want to 'waste' a precious sick day and for yet others it is a fear of being penalized or even losing their job.
The first scenario is something that an employer can do little about. The latter two scenarios are company culture based and are things that you, as a manager, are absolutely responsible for.
How To Keep Sick Employees Out of the Office
Create a Sick Leave Policy
If an office falls victim to mass sickness – a mass sickness that could have been avoided if a sick employee had stayed at home – it can cost them thousands in lost productivity. To avoid this, crafting a formal policy around what is expected from sick employees is a must.
In this policy, it is not enough to simply offer sick days. It needs to emphasize that sick employees must stay at home. Just like it was the case when they were in school, if they are coughing, sneezing or feverish they have to stay away.
One way to craft a policy that won't seem harsh or overbearing is to allow employees the option to work from home on sick days. The goal is preventing the spread of illness, and employees who can perform their duties from home without using a sick day will be more inclined to err on the side of caution and do just that.
Have Managers Reiterate the Policy
You can build the best sick worker policy in the world, but employees still may not pay any attention to it.
You know who will make them pay attention and follow the rules? You
According to this report, only 30% of managers say they proactively encourage the employees they manage to take time off work for preventive care appointments. And 80% of workers said they have cancelled such appointments for workplace pressures. Which is not good. What's even worse is that managers rarely lead by example and head to work sick themselves.
Managers make the world go round for employees. When the boss says to do something, most employees will do it. Dealing with sickness has to start from the top. Employees will only take this seriously if their boss emphasizes it and lives it.
Make Prevention Part of Your Wellness Efforts
People not becoming ill in the first place is one of the best ways to avoid a production crushing employee plague. As a part of any workplace wellness program an emphasis on prevention is a must. This can involve holding flu shot clinics in the office, or arranging for a medical professional to come in for a lunch and learn session. It can also encompass smaller details, like ensuring there is a plentiful supply of tissues in work areas and vitamin C laden fruits and juices in the kitchen.
The bottom line is that sick employees are bad for business. As much as everyone loves butts in seats, sick butts should stay home. For their sake, and the sake of the office.