Invisible Absences - Working While Sick


[Translate to english:] Unsichtbaren Fehlzeiten – Krank am Arbeitsplatz[Translate to english:] Zahlreiche Europäer gehen trotz Krankheit in die Arbeit

It is far from ideal for companies when employees are absent due to sickness. But is it better to turn up at work sick? What initially sounds like exemplary commitment is actually detrimental to all involved.

Almost 80 percent of Europeans believe that they are in good or very good health.1 Nevertheless, they miss an average of 11 days per year due to sickness. At 18 days, Germans are well above average. The most common reasons for absence are the same everywhere: colds, backache and mental health problems make up the Top 3 all around.

Presenteeism is Widespread

More than 40 percent of employees in Europe say that they have gone to work when sick. This phenomenon is known as presenteeism, which mainly occurs with colds, headaches and depression. In France, Spain, Greece and the UK, the rate of those who turn up to work sick is actually higher than the number of people on sick leave. The most valid arguments people use for still coming to the office, building site or factory is the fear of losing their jobs and not wanting to let their colleagues down.2 Incidentally, managers are particularly affected by presenteeism.3

There are Tremendous Harmful Effects

The many negative consequences are frequently underestimated. First of all, there is always the risk of colleagues catching a cold or infection. And if you don't look after yourself, you risk the illness lasting longer and then missing work for an extended period of time or even becoming permanently unfit for work. Furthermore, illnesses reduce our performance and productivity and, at the same time, increase the risk of mistakes and accidents at work. Researchers also assume that the costs caused by presenteeism actually exceed the costs of absences due to sickness.4

Listen to Your Gut Feeling

In general: Anyone who feels too sick to work should stay at home. Obviously, this does not mean that you should take to your bed for every little ailment. An example: you can usually still work with a slight cold. But if the symptoms include fever and aching limbs, you should visit your GP and take care of yourself for a few days. As is so often the case in life, you should listen to your gut feeling

1 Eurofound (2017), Sixth European Working Conditions Survey

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