Work­ers in stress­ful, de­mand­ing jobs more likely to show up when sick

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

WASH­ING­TON: De­mand­ing, stress­ful or in­se­cure jobs may mo­ti­vate work­ers to show up even when they should stay home sick, a re­search re­view sug­gests.

Un­der­stand­ing what mo­ti­vates work­ers to re­main on the job when they’re sick may help em­ploy­ers de­velop sick-day poli­cies that may be more ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing the spread of con­ta­gious diseases in the work­place, study co-au­thor Gary Johns, a busi­ness and man­age­ment re­searcher at Con­cor­dia Univer­sity in Mon­treal, said by email.

“In the case of con­ta­gious ill­ness, the spread of the ill­ness to co-work­ers and cus­tomers or clients is an ob­vi­ous con­cern,” Johns said. “On the other hand, if ill­ness is nei­ther con­ta­gious nor de­bil­i­tat­ing, it might be self-af­firm­ing for peo­ple to go to work when not per­fectly fit.” Johns and co-au­thor Mariella Mi­raglia of the Nor­wich Busi­ness School at the Univer­sity of East Anglia in the UK an­a­lyzed data from 61 pre­vi­ous stud­ies in­volv­ing more than 175,000 peo­ple in more than 30 coun­tries to as­sess what might mo­ti­vate peo­ple to come to work when they were sick.

The two re­searchers re­fer to work­ing while sick as “pre­sen­teeism.” In the stud­ies they an­a­lyzed, pre­sen­teeism was of­ten linked to work­place poli­cies to re­duce ab­sen­teeism, such as dis­ci­plinary ac­tions, lim­ited paid sick leave, or med­i­cal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quired for sick time, the anal­y­sis found. Job de­mands also came into play, with heavy work­loads, un­der­staffing, over­time and loom­ing dead­lines all mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple to work while sick. “Tight re­stric­tions on paid sick leave, such as re­quir­ing a doc­tor’s note to val­i­date an em­ployee’s ill­ness,” can limit the ef­fec­tive­ness of giv­ing peo­ple paid time off to pre­vent the spread of dis­ease in the work­place, Dr. Eric Widera, a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Francisco, who wasn’t in­volved in the study, said by email.

One short­com­ing of the anal­y­sis is that the re­searchers lacked data to prop­erly as­sess the role of de­pres­sion and men­tal health in pre­sen­teeism, the au­thors ac­knowl­edge in the Jour­nal of Oc­cu­pa­tional Health Psy­chol­ogy. It’s pos­si­ble that work­ers suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness might not per­ceive them­selves as work­ing while sick. Many work­ers may be­lieve their jobs are on the line if they stay home, or feel that they can’t af­ford the lost in­come from an un­paid day off, noted Supriya Ku­mar, a pub­lic health re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh who wasn’t in­volved in the study. —Reuters

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