The evening news recently reported about a new flu outbreak that’s hitting a lot of states. Ohio was identified as one state that’s been hit hardest. What was most concerning as I watched the report was the fact that Tamiflu (the drug used to treat the flu) appears to be ineffective in treating this particular flu strain.
After hearing this report I sent a message to everyone on staff alerting them to the fact that a tough strain of the flu was emerging and reinforcing one of my key management principles — “when you’re sick you should stay home.”
I admit to being a bit of hypochondriac and obsessing over how people have the ability to infect each other because many of us seem to think that our work and personal contributions are so important that we can’t afford to be gone. This “I have to be at work” mentality also seems to manifest itself in coming to work when sick as some sort of badge of courage showing how tough we are and how we’re ready to “play through the pain” because the company can’t afford to be without us even for one day.
I’ll also admit that my sensitivity is heightened because within the past few months we had an incident in our office when multiple people all became sick with the same symptoms and this led to extensive sick leave for many of our staff. That was a lesson in just how quickly and easily sickness can be spread — and it reinforced that we all need to be mindful of the potential impact on others when we decide to come to work when we’re sick. Someone who was sick and should have stayed home instead came to work and infected a lot of co-workers.
IF YOU’RE SICK —- STAY HOME. That’s the reason companies provide their employees with sick leave. Nobody should feel that they’re so valuable to the business that they have to come in regardless of health. And nobody should feel that they can come in when they’re sick and just keep to themselves so they won’t infect anyone else. Both are fallacies. Nobody is so valuable that they can’t be missed for a few days or even a few weeks. But our egos often don’t want to accept that.
How do we get that message across so it’s understood by employees? That’s the challenge I’m dealing with right now. For every person who seems to understand that I’m serious about the message “if you’re sick, stay home,” there’s at least one who feels they can’t afford to stay away. It doesn’t affect anyone’s pay, but it’s people’s egos that seems to get in the way of common sense when it comes to making the call, “I’m sick and need to stay home today.” Perhaps it’s a message that comes through most clearly when the boss and others in charge practice what they preach and stay home when they’re sick.