Work and Sickness: What You Need to Know

Updated on May 13, 2020

Work and Sickness. What You Need to Know

The spread of the dreaded coronavirus has made everyone reconsider the things we thought were normal. One of the critical things brought to the fore is the interplay of work and health.

Why do people go to work even when they are sick? A research conducted by the staffing firm Accountemps has some answers for us:

  • 54% go because they have too much work on their plate
  • 40% want to avoid using up a sick-day leave
  • 43% want to please their employer
  • It’s standard practice. 25% of their co-workers come to work sick

Coronavirus has Changed the Status Quo

For many employees, common cold and cough, unless severe, was not a good enough reason to miss work. However, the outbreak has changed that standard. Several governments have instituted some form of lockdown and asked workers to stay home.

Health is sure to become a critical part of every company playbook going forward. It won’t be a surprise if governments come up with stringent policies and laws regarding sickness in workplaces, particularly with contagious diseases. 


Communication has been central to tackling the spread of the virus. Similarly, it’s been crucial in how companies respond to the uncertainty created by the outbreak. The better ones have been upfront and transparent, keeping their employees in the decision-making loop. 

Every employer must be clear on how safety is assured in their work environment. Also, there should be clarity on things like sick leave, medical insurance, compensation, amongst others. Employers must maintain an open channel to hear the concerns of employees about health and safety. 

Remote Work is Possible

Many companies, including some tech behemoths like Microsoft and Apple, have urged employees to work from home. Shopify, for instance, is giving employees $1,000 to help furnish their home workstations. Remote work is bound to be the new normal. 

If there’s anything we can take away from the pandemic, it is that remote work is possible. There is a ton of research showing that productivity increases when people work flexible hours from home. 

Even after the virus winds down, you can suggest a home-office balance to your employer. If you feel sick, ask your employee about working from home. Many jobs can be done away from the office without losing productivity. 

Work-Related Diseases

An illness caused or triggered by a work-related activity is what the WHO calls an “occupational disease.” These diseases include stress and mental health disorders, work-related cancers, hearing losses, allergies, etc. 

The type of occupational disease you encounter depends on the work environment you’re in and the potential risks there. A football player is more likely to develop a head injury than say, a receptionist. Some people experience the effects of their workspaces years after departure or retirement. Before you sign on to a job, make sure you’re up to date on the occupational risks and what it means for your health. 

If you can trace any disease you’re suffering from to work, then you might be entitled to some compensation. Consult a workers’ compensation attorney to help you know what to do. 

Summing Up

Nothing will remain the same after the Covid-19 pandemic. Of particular note is the health-work balance—the practice of employees being forced to a worksite while sick is becoming dated. Remote work has emerged as a worthy and even better alternative. Going forward, it’s likely to become a key feature of how we work. 

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Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.