A survey conducted late last year found more than a quarter of public sector employees hesitant to use their vacation time, for a number of reasons ranging from heavy workloads to financial worries.
Workers seeing the results of a new poll might feel just as reluctant to take time off when they’re under the weather, for fear of being “sick shamed” by their manager.
In a January survey, ResumeBuilder.com asked 1,000 managers to share their thoughts on workers taking time off, and if they have engaged in “sick shaming” of employees who take time off for illness.
Overall, most of the managers responding seem to take workers at their word when they say they’re not feeling well enough to come in. And most are OK with unwell employees taking time off to get back to full strength, or close enough to carry out their duties. Still, a noteworthy number are skeptical of employees calling out sick, and believe that encouraging workers to soldier on through sickness at the office is ultimately good for the organization. For example:
- 24% of managers said they think workers who take sick days often lie or exaggerate their illness
- One-third of responding managers said they often ask for medical documentation as proof of illness
- 20% encourage workers who are feeling ill to still come into the office
- 11% admit to “sick shaming” workers
- 27% of managers believe that a culture where employees are encouraged to come to work when sick is good for productivity
In addition, more than one-third of managers said their direct reports ask for sick time off very often (10%) or often (25%), while 44% said their staffers ask for time off related to sickness on an occasional basis or rarely (21%).
When can workers feel comfortable using sick time? Seventy percent of managers indicated that employees should take time off for a severe cold, while 14% said they think employees should work from home in that scenario. Twenty percent said employees should still come into work with a severe cold, and 22% said workers in that situation should “take the day partially off,” but still answer emails or attend meetings.
Overall, the survey’s findings certainly came as a surprise to Julia Toothacre, resume and career strategist at ResumeBuilder, who questioned the reasoning behind having sick employees around the office, especially when remote work is feasible for so many roles.
“COVID-19 changed a lot about how we work and specifically how we work when we are sick,” said Toothacre, in a statement.
“This survey shocked me because of what we went through with COVID. Why are we promoting having people in the office who can spread any kind of illness around? As a result of working from home, there is now an option for many people to take work home when they aren’t feeling well, but that doesn’t mean it should be recommended. Giving employees the option without any pressure would be the best course of action.”
Ultimately, a work environment in which workers are explicitly asked or simply expected to show up when they’re sick has a corrosive effect on the organization, as it only reinforces the idea that the agency only sees employees in terms of numbers and not human beings, Toothacre said.
“It creates a culture that lacks empathy and ultimately doesn’t care for its employees’ health, well-being or productivity. People who are sick and more likely to make mistakes and can be slower to comprehend. It doesn’t make sense to encourage sick people to work when they aren’t 100% ready to work.”
26 January 2024
HR News Article