The Grapevine

Global Survey Shows Many People Would Return To Work Despite Sickness

Staying at home is one of the best ways to help slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. But a global survey shows that many employees would go to work even when sick or showing flu-like symptoms.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, come from data collected from nearly 50 countries between late 2018 and early 2019, before the world saw the first case of COVID-19. However, it provides information that may help create new guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was bad enough before COVID-19 when it was just influenza and other respiratory viruses," Peter Collignon, infectious diseases physician from the Australian National University (ANU), said as quoted by ScienceAlert. "But, now we have coronavirus it is more important than ever not go to work when you are unwell."

People show up in their workplaces despite being sick because of the phenomenon called “presenteeism.” Researchers said health care workers (HCWs) usually make this mistake, which increases the risk of spreading the disease to other people in the facility.

For the survey, Collignon and his colleagues provided an online questionnaire to institutional groups working in healthcare settings around the world. More than 46 percent of the respondents were health care workers, while the remaining worked outside the medical field.

Results showed that, regardless of their jobs, 58.5 percent of the respondents were likely to continue working even when sick. The majority said they would still return to their workplaces even with influenza-like illnesses, such as sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, cold chills and fever.

People with minor or manageable symptoms also appeared with greater chances of heading into work. Researchers said it is due to presenteeism because of “individual judgement” and that employees prioritize their tasks over the risk of exposing others to a disease. 

"The decision to work through illness is a complex phenomenon and is shaped not only by personal factors or lack of knowledge regarding the importance of the risk of transmission but, more importantly, it is inherent in the organizational culture and policies with financial penalties, which may place possible constraints on absenteeism, thus resulting in presenteeism," researchers said in the report. 

The team suggested that people check their conditions before returning to work and know the importance of self-isolation, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 lockdown A survey conducted in nearly 50 countries around the world showed that many employees would go to work even when sick or showing flu-like symptoms, particularly those in healthcare settings. Pixabay

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