Are You Too Sick To Work?


September 23, 2011

Back in summer of 2010, I wrote about getting sick and asked whether or not people advocate going to work when they are sick.  It generated some interesting comments at the time.  Even writing about it, I don’t think I gave it enough serious thought.  I like to think I’m fairly “in the know” when it comes to assessing my ability to determine if I’m too sick to go to the office.  After all, I do have kids and I work at a hospital.  Unfortunately, I may not be as good as I thought at assessing the situations that arise.

I was reading and they have a quiz (Should They Stay or Should They Go?) to help you determine if you understand when to send a child to school who is showing signs of sickness.  It’s a short, 8 question quiz and I barely passed!  Sitting here stunned that I don’t have a better handle on judging when a child is sick enough to stay home from school makes me realize that it’s uncommon for employers to tell employees when they should stay home from work.  According to the Idaho Business Review, “In the U.S., the average employer cost is $1,000 per employee each year. This is the second-highest benefit cost to employers after medical benefits. American companies lose 2.8 million workdays a year from unplanned absences.”

So as a manager, there is the delicate line we have to walk between increasing costs of employee sickness and encouraging staff to actually take the time they need to recouperate when they really should be using sick time and not contaminating the workplace.  I encourage you to take the quiz and let me know how you do.  Were you able to identify what is “really sick” vs. acceptable?  How does knowing this impact our approach to staff?


  • I always thought the key cost issue was less the cost of one person staying home sick and more the cost of them coming to work and infecting others in the office. I assume that’s a key consideration for keeping your child home from school as well, i.e., not getting the other kids sick.

    I took the test and got an OK score but erred on the side of caution along the same lines – ringworm’s contagious!

    • @Laura- I’m with you…making an error on the side of caution in this case is wise. Just wish I could tell myself that when I’m sick (rarely) but still try to go to the office.

  • 5 right out of 8, too cautious! For adults, I err on side of stay home – with technology you can be nearly as productive and wont get others sick!

    • @Mike- That is the exact score I got! I prefer to work from home when I am under the weather. I wish more employers would embrace that idea so that it would cut down on being exposed to illness while at work.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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