Office Etiquette: Sickness in the Workplace

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Posted by The Editors on October 6, 2011
Office Etiquette: Sickness in the Workplace

As I lay in bed surrounded by crumpled tissues and over-the-counter medicine, my mind—the part that isn’t hazy from lack of sleep and flu-like symptoms, is focused on work and the long list of things I need to be doing. As flu season gets off to a rocky start (for me at least), I wonder how many people decide to venture into the office rather than camp out in bed and wait it out. With my symptoms, and at the persistence of my family and coworkers, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if I came into the office in my current state.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of workers typically go to work when they are sick, which doesn’t surprise me in these hard economic times. There’s no doubt employees are feeling the pressure to show up and perform at their very best. But when your head feels like it’s about to implode, you’re sweating like a popsicle on the Fourth of July, and your cough scares away young children, friends, it’s time to call in sick.

With so many employees heading to work feeling less than par, it’s important to take the necessary measures to ensure you’re doing everything you can to prevent the spreading of germs. So in my next bit of office etiquette advice (see lunch etiquette post), I figured it’s a wise time to talk about sickness in the workplace and how to combat it.

Clean your hands.
Take a few trips to the sink to wash your hands during the day or invest in a bottle of hand sanitizer to keep at your desk.

Keep your work area germ-free.
According to the aforementioned CareerBuilder survey, only 30 percent of people regularly clean their keyboards, phones, and desks. That’s a low number, but I can believe it. Since I’ve been sick, I bought disinfectant wipes and cleaned my keyboard, computer screen, phone, and just about everything else sitting on my desk. Doing so only reminds me how much more I should be disinfecting even when I’m healthy.

Cover your mouth.
This is standard etiquette anywhere but it’s always worth mentioning. Feeling a cough or a sneeze coming on? Make sure you cover up and have a tissue handy.

Let your boss know.
If you feel sickness coming on, make sure you talk to your boss especially if you’re nervous about missing a few days of work. Your boss might be able to ease your concerns. Offer to work from home if you can or call in whenever necessary but don’t overwork yourself. The first thing on your mind should be recovering. No need to prolong your symptoms.

Eat and drink healthy.
Feeling a cold coming on? Substitute your burger and fries for a salad and water. It might not be comfort food but at least it’s healthier.

Take a break.
Avoid sitting at your desk all day long. Take your lunch break or a mid-afternoon coffee break and walk around outside to take in some fresh fall air.

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