South Africans go to work sick: survey

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thermometer sxc A survey revealed that over the past five years 44 percent of workers aged 20-39 had lied to their boss about being ill to get time off, compared with just 12 percent of those over 50.

Johannesburg - Eighty percent of South Africans would continue going to work despite having a cold or flu, according to a Pharma Dynamics survey released on Tuesday.

“South Africans won't let a cold or flu get the better of them with eight in 10 determined to go to work even though they're as sick as a dog,” spokeswoman Mariska van Aswegen said.

In the phenomenon known as “presenteeism”, 48 percent of respondents said “they just can't afford to take a day off work due to mounting workloads”, 33 percent said “they're just too essential to the business operation”, and 12 percent “go into work sick hoping they'll be sent home by the boss”.

Other reasons cited included 17 percent of respondents saying their employer discouraged them from taking sick leave, or that they got penalised for doing so, while 11 percent said they feared that they would lose their jobs if they took time off to recover.

The colds and flu medicine provider conducted the online survey by interviewing 1978 adult working men and women countrywide, between the ages of 18 and 55.

This was done between June and July 2014 this year.

Van Aswegen said “presenteeism” usually led to lower-than-normal productivity levels.

“Studies show that productivity levels only drop to about 28 percent when employees take sick leave, compared to a much more significant drop of 72 percent when they show up at work feeling lousy.”

She said “presenteeism” was attributed to “the prolonged economic stagnation”.

“To some, physically showing up at work every day means job security. People want to make sure that they are not forgotten about and want to prove that they are committed to their jobs.”

However, the risk of spreading viruses and making others sick increased substantially with sick employees around the office.

“The working sick leave behind a trail of germs on shared surfaces like stair rails, door handles, water coolers, communal fridges, counters and light switches, putting others' health in jeopardy,” said van Aswegen.

Despite this, the study showed that 38 percent of respondents did not take precautionary measure, such as using hand sanitisers, disinfectant wipes and soap.

“Even though you may not be able to change your co-workers' bad habits, you can protect yourself by washing your hands often enough, especially after you've come into contact with a sick colleague, before eating and after using the restroom,” said Van Aswegen.

“Also avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose at all costs and clean your desk, including your telephone, cellphone and keyboard with antibacterial wipes at least daily.”


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