The number of days of sick leave taken by British workers has almost halved since 1993, according to the Office for National Statistics. Where the average employee spent 7.2 days a year at home due to illness, he took only 4.1 days off in 2017.
Kylie Ainslie, research associate at the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, explains that it's hard to attribute this change to the overall evolution of medicine . people do not necessarily get sick less often.
Instead, experts say that a changing work culture is at the root of the stigma associated with leave. Studies show that mistrust and fear of judgment by bosses have forced an increasing number of employees to go to work in the event of illness.
The influenza season – which peaks between December and February in the northern hemisphere – corresponds to a peak of absenteeism. This is the time of year when the air is the coldest and driest, ideal conditions for the rapid transmission of the flu virus. Health professionals agree that staying home during the early stages of the flu – the first two days after infection with the virus, when the risk of contagion is highest – is critical to the health of affected workers and their families. colleagues.
Experts say a changing work culture is at the root of the stigma of leave
However, according to a survey conducted in 2015 by AXA PPP, a British insurer, nearly 40% of employees do not tell their supervisor the real reason for their absence when they are sick because they are afraid of being judged. or not to believe.
For the unlucky ones whose employers are pushing them to stay away from work, communicating the need for leave effectively is a crucial step in maintaining their health and productivity, as well as that of their colleagues.
Stigmatization of the disease
So, why do some chiefs give court to the disease?
As new technologies and instant connectivity infiltrate global companies, a new work dynamic has emerged. Depending on the sector of activity, being present at the office is no longer a prerequisite for productivity. Many workers are equipped with all the necessary tools – a computer and wifi – to work outside the office.
But with the freedom to work anywhere has come a wave of mistrust on the part of managers who can not monitor their subordinates in person.
George Boué, vice president of human resources at Stiles Corporation's real estate company, explains that the stigma comes from "previous generations who have never accepted that someone can actually work productively from home." This manifests itself as a form of resistance to the concept of a decentralized workplace, where employees are trusted to stay on the job.
The combination of mistrust and the constant pursuit of maximum productivity has led some managers to view illness-related absences with such critical eye.
Only 42% of executives surveyed by AXA PPP acknowledged that influenza was a sufficiently serious reason for absence, with less than 40% citing it for back pain or non-emergency surgery. The study also revealed that employees were much more likely to lie to their boss about why they would stay home if the cause was related to mental health (39% would say the truth) rather than to physical health (77%).
But it's not just management attitudes that force us to work when we're sick. Many of the jobs that were once formal and full-time have become volatile and fleeting in the entertainment economy.
Today, written in 2017 Pete Robertson, Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University: "The work can be temporary, fixed-term, seasonal, project-based, part-time, on a zero-hour, casual contract." , agency, independent, peripheral, contingent, external, non-standard, atypical, platform-based, outsourced, outsourced, informal, undeclared, unsecured, marginal or precarious. "
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of vacancies and layoffs has increased over the past two years. As the turnover rate continues to climb, it is not surprising that workers are more resistant to jobs, even if they have to be sick.
This practice is called "presenteeism": people who come to work when they are sick.
The problem of presenteeism
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, presenteeism has more than tripled in the last decade. Out of more than 1,000 participants in its 2018 study, 86% reported seeing presenteeism in their organization in the previous year, up from 26% in 2010.
"With managers showing so little understanding or support for employees suffering from illness, it's not hard to understand why employees are concerned about calling patients," said Glen Parkinson, director of small and medium-sized businesses. AXA PPP companies in 2015. "Employers must trust employees to take the time off that suits them, and to the extent possible, consider allowing them to work from home."
Authorizing presenteeism could be much more costly for a company than creating an environment in which people feel able to take sick leave; Contagious employees have a training effect. And when it comes to mental health or other illnesses, allowing people to take the time they need from the start can mean less recovery time later.
Presenteeism has more than tripled in the last decade
Spending a day in the office while sick could lead to a 40% increase in influenza cases at work, according to a 2013 study by the University of Pittsburgh. The researchers used population data from more than 500,000 employees in an outbreak simulation in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to calculate the hypothetical spread of the influenza virus. The results showed that 66,000 infections – or 11.5% of the total number of employees – were caused by workplace transmission.
The most eloquent scenario of the study was the establishment of a policy of "staying a day or two to the flu", resulting in nearly 17,000 fewer infections in a day (a drop in About 25%) and 26,000 fewer cases in two days. (a drop of almost 40%).
Removing from the practice of presenteeism has obvious benefits for the long-term health of the workplace. In jobs without formal policy, it is up to employees to communicate their needs to managers so as not to interfere with daily operations.
A policy of honesty
Experts say that the sooner an employee can inform his manager, the better. Establishing a line of communication with a supervisor early in the illness can both inspire respect and give them more time to plan for absenteeism. Above all, being honest is the best way to avoid misunderstandings and resentments.
"The right way is to follow the policies and procedures of the organization," says Mark Marsen, director of human resources for Pittsburgh-based Allies for Health + Wellbeing, a health care services group member. HR experts from the Society for Human Resource Management. . "The absolute bad way is to lie or exaggerate."
Marsen says that there are two types of managers. The first thinks that employees are not willing to work and therefore need a lot of rules. These managers will be predisposed to think the worst of all employees, especially when the disease is evoked as an excuse for being away from the office.
The other type of manager will try to set reasonable standards and ensure that employees are adults. It's up to the managers themselves to create a culture where employees feel empowered to take time, he says. The best way is to give the example.
"It means staying home and really disconnected when you feel too sick to work, so your team knows it's okay to do the same when they're not feeling well. It is also important to avoid contacting employees who are sick at home, except for really urgent reasons. "
To find the balance, it will always go both ways, forcing employees and bosses to take into account the responsibilities and well-being of each other before adding pressure. Especially during the flu season, it is crucial to reduce the cases of presenteeism.
"A good boss has to show empathy and understanding," says Boué. "Nothing creates a closer connection between the boss and his subordinate than to be compassionate."
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