Historically, when we’ve come down with something, we’d take a day off to rest and recover. With remote working so mainstream in today’s world however, it means that even when we’re up to our eyeballs in tissues, we still feel compelled to work
Despite the amazing developments in technology over the last few decades, unfortunately we’re yet to discover how to develop immunity to illness. Every single one of us is bound to feel under the weather every now and then so why is the New York Times reporting that sick days are a thing of the past?
Historically, when we’ve had to admit defeat and accept that we’re too ill to make it into the office, we’d take a day off to rest and recover. With remote working so mainstream in today’s world however, it means that even when we’re up to our eyeballs in tissues, we still feel compelled to do some work.
Whether it’s replying to an email, taking a phone call or even attempting to do the work we would be doing if we were in the office, it seems as though we would rather work through illness than face the anxiety of falling too far behind.
According to the Office for National Statistics, us Brits are one of the worst nations for doing this. Figures from 2016 revealed that British workers reported the lowest level of sickness absence since records began. Approximately 137 million working days were lost to illness and injury. The equivalent to 4.3 days per worker, this is a steep drop from 1993 when this was 7.2 days.
Is it really just because it’s so easy to log in from home that so many of us are choosing to work through sickness or is there more to it?
A separate survey carried out by Aviva Working Lives last year found that seven in 10 Brits will choose to fight through their cold and work it off rather than take the time to recuperate.
Almost half of people questioned (41%) said the main reason they refuse to call in sick is because their work will pile up. More worryingly however, more than two in five said they believe their company prioritises results over employee personal health and wellbeing.
Aviva UK Health’s medical director, Dr Doug Wright commented:
“Businesses need to ensure they create a working culture where people don’t feel pressured into going to work when they’re unwell.”
“Presenteeism, driven in part by an increased ‘always-on’ culture, poses a genuine threat to overall business performance through the adverse impact on productivity and morale in the workplace. Businesses should ensure they take the lead on communicating proactively to employees that it’s important to take a step back when unwell and it can be in everyone’s interest. Investment in health and wellbeing is no longer a nice thing to have, it must be looked on as a priority.”
Calling in sick is never easy. You likely feel that being out, even for just one day will mean you’re letting someone down. If you're a conscientious worker, it can be easy to assume that your office will somehow be offended by your absenteeism but remember, everyone gets sick occasionally.
When it happens, there's no need to feel guilty about it. If you're a reliable and hard-working, everyone will understand and wish you a quick recovery. After all, the quicker you get better, the sooner you'll be able to get back to work.