Constance Just do not admit weakness, do not blame your colleagues – these thoughts are nonsense: If workers leave for work despite illness, no one has them, the expert explains.
"It's just a cold so I don't have to stay home" or "I'll only be here for half a day": Many employees have a problem staying home when they are sick. This phenomenon is called presentism. Utz Niklas Walter of the Konstanz Institute for Occupational Health Counseling (IFBG) explains why we should quit the habit as soon as possible – and how it works.
Where does our bad conscience come from when we stay home sick?
Walter The problem is that people think they are doing something right for the company when they get sick of their jobs. According to the motto: "I'm sick, but I still take care of myself." That depends a little on how we socialized. If we are ill for family or friends, this is often interpreted as sacrificial and positive. But that should not transfer to employment. Another reason for bad conscience when staying away from work is the fear that someone will not consider you lazy.
Why should you stay home?
Walter Many workers forget that they can infect others, cause illness, or increase the risk of accidents. In addition, there is a risk of error if they are retired.
Especially if mistakes in my business can lead to dire consequences, it is a fatal attitude – because then they can put others at risk or cause financial harm to the company. Think of a school bus driver. Nobody really wants them in charge.
How can employees best manage their grief?
Walter The easiest way is to change perspective. What would you think if a colleague came to work sick? In most cases, you are less satisfied with being there than nervous that it can infect you. Or makes mistakes that can even fall on these.
But many seem sick at work because they want to avoid overtime for their colleagues?
Walter Yes, for many employees this is one of the main reasons why we found out in studies. First of all, leadership is required. You should talk to your team or staff: If one is ill, they may be overwhelmed by others – but at best in a short time.
In turn, serious negative consequences such as disease transmission or an increased risk of accidents and mistakes can be avoided. However, the manager may also mediate: whoever recovered should behave comically and return to work as soon as possible.
We often think: Oh, it's just a little cold so I don't stay home now …
Walter As a first step, I should always think, am I contagious and is there a danger of my illness getting worse? In case of doubt, the doctor explains this to me. Or I consult with colleagues.
The training of health partners in the company can make sense here: they are specially trained employees who have a view on the health of their colleagues and who act as trusted contact persons. However, in principle, it is also important to develop a culture in society that allows people to stay home when they are ill.
Walter Such a culture of mindfulness can be promoted through appropriate mission statement or leadership training. Ultimately, all levels should be involved: individual worker, team, manager and top management. This includes, for example, having a boss specifically address people who go to work sick and then intentionally send them home.
In addition, executives themselves should show that they remain at home in the event of illness. Assists in writing the team to write down principles for coping with illness and absenteeism.
However, within a team, there are often differences in how individuals deal with the topic of illness. How do you come up with a common denominator?
Walter Yes, there are employees who flirt with having barely accumulated sick leave in the dozens of years they have worked. Other employees recognize exaggeration in the other direction. There is a bit of a painful reason not to go to work.
To avoid conflicts, for example, there are workshops by a moderated team. Then put all your cards open on the table. This creates the understanding that the perception of the disease is individual and may have a different background.