Survey reveals why we're reluctant to take a sick day

woman ill at workWhy do we go to work when we're ill? Here’s what a recent survey reveals.

Being at work while unwell is less than pleasant. So why do so many of us still make it to our desks when we know we'd have been better off recuperating at home?

In readiness for National Sickie Day 2019, which is the first Monday in February said to be the most likely for work absences, People HR surveyed over 2,000 adults across the UK, and discovered that 79 per cent go to work despite being physically or mentally unwell.

Why? Well, the clue might be found in those who are absent, as 67 per cent of those surveyed feel guilty about taking time off work when they have health-related issues.

Why do we go to work when we’re ill?

In the survey, the reasons why people go to work when they're unwell included:

  • being worried about falling behind on their workload (40 per cent)
  • pressure from their boss (24 per cent)
  • wanting to be seen in the office (22 per cent)

It’s worth remembering that sick pay is not universal – 22 per cent of respondents go to work when they're unwell because they don’t get sick pay.

It’s also concerning to note that 30 per cent of respondents are too scared to talk to their bosses about needing time off, and 40 per cent felt that their boss didn’t believe that they were genuinely ill, even when they had called in sick.

What are the most common illnesses that people go to work with?

Here are the top four reasons for sick leave from the survey:

  • colds and flu (66 per cent)
  • back and joint pains (28 per cent)
  • stomach ailments (24 per cent)
  • stress or emotional crises (22 per cent)

As for recovery tactics, two thirds (61 per cent) of respondents prioritise sleep as essential to getting better.

Some employers aren’t helping

Employers understandably want a complete and present workforce. But if you're not careful. this can facilitate ‘presenteeism’ – where employees are physically present, but not really fit to be working.

Added to that, almost a third (30 per cent) of respondents felt that their current employer never takes any steps to look after their physical and mental welfare, and almost half of respondents said that their company doesn’t offer any benefits or perks to improve wellbeing.

“Companies that encourage people to rest when they are physically or mentally unwell benefit from lower staff turnover and better productivity,” says Sat Sindhar, managing director at People HR. “Besides, is it really responsible to let an ill person serve food, operate dangerous machinery, or run payroll?”

Does gender affect attitudes to absence?

Where reasons for turning up to work when sick are concerned, the survey shows a notable difference: that men are more concerned about missing out on work opportunities (16 per cent vs 10 per cent), while women are more concerned that colleagues will judge them (16 per cent vs 10 per cent).

Overall, women are slightly more likely to go into work despite needing time off (82 per cent vs 77 per cent). This could be linked to being more likely to feel that their boss doesn't believe them when they are genuinely ill (42 per cent vs 38 per cent).

 Find out more about the survey, including workers’ preferred wellbeing perks, at PeopleHR.