Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

What really happens when you go to work sick

There are two types of people in the world: people who stay home when they’re sick and people who choose to go to work. While you might think the latter are the real go-getters, in actuality, they may need more help than a few days bed rest can provide.

Scientists call the act of going to work even when you’re compromised, “presenteeism.” It essentially means you’re prone to pushing yourself to be productive, regardless of whether or not your body can keep up with you. While those who suffer from presenteeism might think they’re getting things done, in reality, they’re doing substandard work and negatively impacting all those around them.

Graphic about going to work sick
Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

Dr. Mariella Miraglia of the University of East Anglia and Gary Johns of Concordia University decided to conduct a study to figure out what causes presenteeism. They did a meta-analysis, which means they looked at data from 60 different studies spanning over 30 different countries, to see if they could identify any commonalities between ‘presentees.’ Unsurprisingly, what they found were a whole lot of negative personality traits. Here are five of the most prevalent.

More8 Easy ways to glide through flu season

They’re always sick

Not like this is too much of a shocker either, but individuals who push themselves when they’re already physically compromised put more stress on their bodies. That means they’re perpetuating illnesses, and as a result, their bodies are even more susceptible to contracting other illnesses down the line. These are those people who whenever you ask how they’re doing are always like, “Well, I’ve got a sinus infection, and strep (again), and my knee pain’s acting up, but that’s nothing new!”

They’re easily stressed

Yes, a high-powered job can cause you to stress out over missing a moment of it, but only a certain type of person refuses to give themselves a break, especially when their body’s begging for it. Working while sick puts even more stress on one’s body and, much like the first trait above, becomes a vicious circle. Long-term stress can also impact you severely over time. Here’s a handy infographic that exhibits the effects.

More5 Ways to protect yourself from the effects of stress

They hate their job OR they’re obsessed with their job

Working while sick is not fun to say the least. People who perpetually do it can start to resent their job, even if there’s no absentee policy forcing them to forgo sick days. “Working while ill can compound the effects of the initial illness and result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work,” Dr. Miraglia wrote in his study. The flip side of this is they may be going to work sick, because they absolutely love their job, and can’t bear to be apart from it for one day. While this is definitely a healthier reason to go to work sick, you’re still compromising yourself (and others) by doing it.

They’re less productive

Most people stay home when they realize their physical state will keep them from doing their job on point. Presentees don’t consider this notion, and as a result, they sacrifice work quality, which is frustrating for bosses, and any employees who might be relying on them. According to research done on the subject in 2004, the United States loses over $150 billion to compromised productivity from presenteeism every year.

They don’t care about getting others sick

Those who suffer from presenteeism convince themselves that going to work is better for them and their company overall, but in fact, it’s compromising everyone. Showing up with the flu to an office filled with people is like letting a kid play with glitter. Soon there will be glitter on everything and everyone. And you know what’s worse than one person working sick? 10 people working sick.

Leave a Comment