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Coping With Flu Season: 3 Tips to Encourage Sick Workers to Stay Home

by Kimberlee Morrison
Filed under: Benefits

Flu season has hit early and hard this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current outbreak could be the worst in a decade. Things are so bad that states such as New York and Massachusetts have declared public health emergencies.

All of this has prompted a debate about paid sick days. While it might seem like a no-brainer that sick people should stay home, for the 40 percent of workers who don't earn paid sick days, staying home is hardly an option. In fact, those without paid sick leave are most likely to be exposed to — and potentially share — infectious diseases including the flu.

How to encourage sick employees to stay home

The pervasive fear among workers is that their job is in jeopardy if they have to miss work because they are sick. Even in workplace cultures where employees are treated like valued assets, most employees will go to work unless they are literally unable to get out of bed.

Ultimately, sick employees can spread sickness to their colleagues and lose productivity as a result of compromised immune systems. The more people go to work sick, the more sickness spreads, resulting in a bigger drain on productivity caused by sick employees.

Instead of falling prey to "sick trooper syndrome," try these ideas to encourage employees to keep their plague at home:

  • Offer paid sick leave. As mentioned above, nearly 40 percent of all workers do not have paid sick leave; nor do they have the option to earn it. The general PTO might seem sufficient, but consider the possibility that employees without PTO specifically for sick leave are just as likely to work sick as an employee with no PTO at all.
  • Give them permission. Even if you don't offer paid sick leave, make sure employees know that you care about their health and the health of the general organization. If you notice lots of sick people around the office, it might be worth it to simply send out a notice encouraging employees to stay home when ill. For many sick troopers, all they need is permission to take care of themselves.
  • Set the expectation. While the temptation is to see working despite being sick as "going above and beyond," this feeds into the mentality that this is the expected behavior. Managers can easily discourage the sick trooper syndrome by sending  employees that are unwell home. This demonstrates compassion and reinforces the idea that sick employees shouldn't even come into the office.

This originally appeared on the Infusionsoft Culture Corner blog.

Kimberlee Morrison is an writer, editor and Culture Evangelist for Infusionsoft, where her job is to help people feel connected to the company culture, both internally and externally. She also writes the Infusionsoft Culture Blog discussing how to build a culture based on shared purpose and values. Contact her at

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