An Office Divided

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Article by Wendy McCance

Each year after the children start back to school, the weather gets cooler and flu season begins.  As I sit in my office, I am surrounded by people sneezing, blowing their nose and coughing.  Yep, nothing like sitting in an office full of germs to really get you going.

The question invariably comes up regarding if people should be allowed to come into work or should they stay home.  Losing pay aside for taking a day off, why do people show their face at the office if they are obviously ill?

It seems that some people are absolute workaholics who won’t stay away from the office no matter how ill they get.  Beyond that, I really believe it comes down to fear.  People want to seem like they are a team player.  What a better way to show your enthusiasm for your job than to come in when you are at your worst.  Jobs are difficult to come by these days and no matter how ill you really are, there always seems to be a backlash if you take time off to recuperate.

My husband has been at a new job that he absolutely loves for less than ninety days.  He had the misfortune of getting sick days before he was scheduled to leave for a weekend trip through his company.  When the day arrived for him to go, he went.

This poor guy took a plane with a horrible head cold and symptoms much like a severe case of strep throat.  Travel time was about eight hours and particularly painful because of the cabin pressure.  There were other employees going who were more capable of getting the job done than my husband.  Even so, he felt determined to not let the team down.

The whole time he was out of town, he was getting pats on the back for meeting with some corporate bigwigs while sick as a dog.  There was never any question of what he was expected to do.  He knew what was expected and never gave it a second thought.  Crazy as it may seem, these corporate types prefer to be in the presence of massive germs than to be down a guy (even though in this situation, he was really not needed).

It’s a strange society we live in.  Instead of taking care of ourselves when we become rundown, it is more preferable to be out in the public infecting everyone in your path.  You become a hero when you ignore being sick and continue working.  When the overworking brings down your immune system some more, dragging out an illness much longer than it would have been, it’s just part of the deal.

This brings up another point.  I have a low immune system.  I don’t like to be around a sick person and try to avoid it at all costs.  It’s just too often that I will catch whatever someone had if I’m in their presence.

I was working at an office where you were expected to be at the office daily, even if you were on your deathbed.  The philosophy was that the work was much too important and took precedence over any personal situation.

This office decided to offer free flu vaccines to its employees.  I had never gotten a flu shot, but figured I should so that I wouldn’t have to worry about time off.  I got the shot.  It was the first and last time I will ever do that.  I was extremely sick for three weeks.  I had never been that sick with the flu my whole life.  It was an awful experience.

At the office, people are once again getting sick and employees are thinking about getting the flu shot.  I for one will be passing on the vaccine.  The whole subject makes me curious though.  How do you feel about people coming into the office sick?  What about the flu shot?  Will you be getting the vaccine this year?

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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13 thoughts on “An Office Divided

  1. We use to HATE when the parents would make their kids come to school sick. They did, we called them to pick them up and about half the time the parent’s “couldn’t get off work”…
    I too don’t like being around a lot of germs as my immune system is lower than normal also, but I did get the flu shot last year and was fine. My daughter says that I need to cuz I’m old, but not if I’m having ANY kind of sickness or around a sick family member…

    Sorry you got so sick… Ask you Dr. maybe you’d be ok to skip it this year. I believe they make them for different strains every year and it culminates to cover all cuz invariably, they make the shot for a strain that we don’t have that year.

  2. When I was working I hated it when people turned up with quite virulent infections, then said they were saving their sickies for a day off. Also hate when you ring someone and say you’re visiting, when you get there it’s like a home for plague victims. They smile and say, it’s only a cold/flu. I had the Hong Kong flu in 1969, was in the army away on exercise. The Doc said I was malingering. I spent four days laying on a mattress on a barrack room floor semi conscious. With only my corporal checking on me twice a day. I lost 28lbs and wished for a bullet I was that sick. Sometimes life sucks.
    Laurie.

    • I agree about the visit when someone is sick. I have had occassions when I would drop one of the kids off for a sleepover. Wouldn’t find out until I got there that one of the family members had “a cold.” It would have been nice to know the facts ahead of time and make a solid decision based on it.

  3. Quite a relevant post for me as I am still really miserable with a flu bug that I came down with a week ago. I feel just as terrible today as I did last week, and am really frustrated. I am, however, fortunate to be retired, so I don’t have to worry about calling in sick. But when I don’t even feel like doing much writing, let alone any housework, there is a problem. Today I managed to do the dishes up (almost all of them), and clean a toilet…then it was back to bed for me because I’m exhausted.
    Like you, I had a flu shot once and became very sick so haven’t had them since except the year that my husband was ill and the whole family had to get the H1N1 shots to try to protect his immune system as much as possible from being compromised more than it already was.

    Sorry this is so long a comment…but I really do think that unless a persons job is in jeopardy if he or she calls in sick, that person should stay home and try to recover without infecting tons of other people.
    Great post!

  4. Somehow I knew this is where you were going with this post 🙂 I was screaming “don’t get the flu shot” as I read on. I am sorry it knocked you down for three weeks. It is sad how everyone would rather get infected than work without a co-worker , who is not his best in the first place. People really need to get their priorities in order….wait, that could be a blog post. Congratulations on your new job! It sounds like you were made for it. Keep writing, I love reading your work 🙂

  5. I hear you. Going to work sick makes no since, but it is consider a badge of honor. So I do get a flu shot so that I want get the flu from the ones who show up with it. So far that has been a good strategy.

    BTW: I am one of the fortunate few who does not get colds so that isn’t a worry, just the flu.

  6. I looked our practice Nurse straight in the eyes when I refused my flu-shot, explaining that I believe that drug companies use these to introduce relatively mild illnesses that cause you to purchase over the counter remedies for things you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t agreed to a vaccination. She was nowhere near as amused with the clicking of my pixie boots as was I.
    For me it’s pretty simple: if you’re ill stay away and get better. Infect your own family and friends and leave me out of it. Where we get it so wrong is the double bind caused by management’s cynicism and the tendency of some employees to “throw a sickie.” Some transparency is needed here: if the work place is so awful that team members can only cope by absenting themselves then there’s a need to take a long hard look at what’s going on: some employee engagement might help. Those who exploit a benign employer need to have a word with themselves and realise they are cheating, lying and stealing. Sure, the impact of their behaviour is not instant or close however, that’s what they are doing and contributing to an atmosphere of mistrust by their actions.

    Whenever I see/hear or read about someone ill on a plane I am reminded of “The Stand” by Steven King and hope that the sneeze I’ve just heard was not the death toll for civilisation as we know it.

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