While many of us jump at the chance to call-in sick to work at the first sign of a cold — other people push through the coughing, sneezing and runny nose to make it into the office.
But, is that always a good idea?
According to several recent studies, sick employees who drag themselves into work, known as "presenteeism," actually end up costing companies more money than if they decided to stay home. Those costs range from lost productivity to the chances of spreading the illness to fellow co-workers.
One of those studies, commissioned by CCH, a human resources and law services firm, found 87 percent of employers report that workers who show up sick are suffering from short-term illnesses such as a cold or the flu.
"We all know what it feels like to have the flu — you're not operating at 100 percent, you may not even be operating at 50 percent," said CCH employment analyst and lawyer Brett Gorovsky, in a news release.
"When you start thinking about that in terms of what you're contributing to the workplace versus what risks you're introducing — in terms of quality, safety and spreading germs — the bottom line for most organizations is that it's in everyone's best interest for sick workers to simply stay away," he added.
So when should you stay away?
"Runny nose is a big marker of infection," said Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious disease attending at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. "Aches and chills, joint pain and fever are all signs of an infectious process."
Rahimian said if you're experiencing any of these top five symptoms, it's a good idea to call out sick:
1. If you have a fever of any kind especially over 100.6 — this is generally cause for concern.
2. If you're coughing a lot and producing phlegm with the cough. Also, pay attention to the color of the phlegm. If it's dark yellow, green or brown — it could be signs of a bronchial or lung infection.
3. If you're suffering from achy joints and you have the chills.
4. If you have a fever and settings of a rash. This often signals a very highly contagious infection such a chickenpox.
5. Any signs of infection after a recent trip outside the country should also warrant a trip to the doctor.
Protecting yourself from sick co-workers
"The realties in our society is that we tend to work through these illnesses,” said Rahimian. "Often times these infections can be transferred by sharing objects, like a computer, phone, laptop, sharing drinks or utensils — those can all help transmit infection."
It's true. We've all been in the cubicle next to someone who is sneezing, coughing and in general just spreading germs around the office.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are several things you can do to protect yourself, such as:
— Avoid direct contact. That means no handshaking
— If you do have to shake someone's hand, keep a hand sanitizer close by, such as Purell
— Hand hygiene is huge. "Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways at preventing infection," said Rahimian.
— To ensure you're germ free, make sure you use adequate water and soap and scrub vigorously over the entire surface of both hands.
The bottom line: There are sick days for a reason — use them to feel better – your company and your co-workers will thank you.