For the first time in five years, the number of employees that said they go to work with flu has dropped to 60 percent, after four straight years of increases, according to the fifth annual Flu Season Survey from Staples.
While this is a drop from last year, many employees still feel they can’t take a sick day. Despite 88 percent of managers encouraging sick employees to stay at home, 40 percent 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. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the drop in employees going to work sick:
    • Sick employees coming into work considered worse for office productivity than a security breach – Both employees and employers recognize the detrimental impact that coming to work sick has on workplace productivity. In fact, 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 think that presenteeism, i.e., 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.

    • Employees are taking charge of their own health and wellness – The survey shows that even as the availability of flu vaccinations in the workplace is on the rise, employees are taking more responsibility for their personal health during flu season. In fact, 70 percent of respondents have some involvement in cleaning their work spaces. This provides employers with the opportunity to promote workplace wellness in simple, inexpensive ways, such as providing cleaning supplies so employees can keep their personal workspace clean.

    • Recent virus outbreaks are affecting behavior – Recent virus outbreaks are affecting behavior, as the majority of employees (53 percent) said they will take extra precautions to protect themselves against the flu and other illness this winter.
“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 at Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples. “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.”