The flu season is almost upon us, and along with it are those infected employees who show up at work regardless of their symptoms, sharing their misery and germs with the rest of us. There also are those companies that embrace such actions. Let's call out both groups: Their actions are stupid and selfish, plain and simple.
The Flu is no joke. But in today’s modern technology world, where most people have smartphones with email and access to company databases and laptops, there is no reason to come into the office and risk infecting others. Tthose job functions that are more manual in nature are obviously a different story, but let’s stick with office workers.
There are two schools of thought. However, either way, it behooves the management of any organization to clearly communicate their health and remote working policies.
The first problem is at the employee level. Some people wear their illness as a badge of honor. If you’re a tow truck driver and isolated in your vehicle most of the time, then being sick and yet still coming to work is admirable. However, if you work in an office where you are in constant contact with others, touching surfaces, meeting in conference rooms or cubicles and using the rest rooms and company kitchen, you do not impress anyone. In fact, you are doing the opposite. People will want to avoid you.
In this always-on, always-connected world, most people have the ability to work remotely, at least for a short time. When you are sick, do yourself and your co-workers a favor and stay home. Go the doctor and come back to the office when you are feeling better. Coming in sick doesn’t show how committed you are to your work; it shows that you don’t care whether you spread your germs and take other people down with you.
The second issue revolves not so much around the employee but around management that encourages such behavior. We have all worked for bosses who make positive examples of those employees who came in with a 102-degree fever just to attend a specific meeting. They enable that behavior and, to a degree, encourage it. It is wrong. I remember one such boss who applauded an employee for driving two hours in a blizzard to come to work while others chose to work from home. As a result, during the next blizzard another employee got into a serious accident because he felt he had to drive to the office. The loss of productivity wasn’t the biggest problem there; the person nearly lost his life. But the die was cast. The precedent was set.
As a manager, it is critical to make it clear that it is ok to work remotely if that employee happens to be under the weather. Otherwise, you run the risk of infecting other workers and the loss of productivity is far greater.
As we enter flu season, as a business owner or manager you need to proactively communicate your policies to your employees that if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms they should stay home and work remotely if they are able. Employees should not fear for their job because they are legitimately ill. It is not just common sense, it is good business sense.