Operating with employees missing can lead to a short-term hit to productivity. But here’s why encouraging sick employees to stay home matters more.

Perhaps one lesson to take
away from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for encouraging sick employees to
stay home.

From the time you’re in
elementary school, perfect attendance is rewarded. After years of reinforcement,
this mindset tends to permeate our culture.

Perhaps your company tends to prize employees who don’t take sick days, or maybe you’ve had people take advantage of your sick policy to get an extra day off work.

It’s not uncommon for employees to feel guilty for taking time off – neglecting their health in the name of productivity. As a show of commitment to the company, they might:

  • Skip breaks
  • Work on vacation
  • Show up to work feeling unwell or flat-out sick

You might argue that
operating with an employee missing is inconvenient and strains your resources.
While this might be true, the potential risk for allowing a contagious illness
into your office could do much more harm.

When someone on your team has
the flu or any other contagious illness, it’s vital to give them time to
recover and get well.

It can be hard to make the
mental shift to not just allow, but to encourage employees to take sick time.
As a business leader, consider renewing your commitment to encouraging sick
employees to stay home.

Here’s why.

1. Less absenteeism in the long run

Encouraging sick employees to
stay home requires a short-term productivity sacrifice, but in the long run,
there’s likely to be a reduction in overall absenteeism.

When contagious employees
come to work, the problem of absenteeism can potentially multiply as their illness
spreads around the office, creating the need for more employees to be out.

On top of that, you may also have employees who are at a higher risk of having complications from the flu or another illness. What may feel like a minor illness to one employee could be much more detrimental to another. Removing the pressure to be present when sick helps protect your most vulnerable employees from harm.

2. Productivity is possible from a distance

Another lesson COVID-19 made clear: many jobs can be done from home.

Perhaps your business was forced to hammer out all the details of working
for the first time. Or maybe
your managers and employees have a lot more experience with how to do so

You can use that experience
to your advantage when employees become sick. Instead of using sick time or paid
time off (PTO), your employees who don’t need to be physically present to do
their job can work from home if they feel well enough to do so.

3. People will take advantage no matter what

No matter your sick leave policy
or expectations, dishonesty unfortunately still exists. You may have employees who pretend to be sick and also those who pretend to be well.

When encouraging sick
employees to stay home, it’s best to give all employees the benefit of the
doubt until you have a reason not to.

If you have an employee who seems to be in a pattern of appearing less than truthful about their ability to work, you can talk to them and take disciplinary action if needed.

4. Good for morale

Would you be willing to risk losing employees who you’ve invested in? That’s what can happen in a culture of overworking where rest is discouraged.

When you encourage employees
to stay home when sick, you send the message that you prioritize their health
and well-being.

This can boost your organizational morale and helps you retain your employees over time. Employees are more likely to stick around when they feel respected and cared for.

How to encourage sick employees to stay

Take a look at your time and attendance policy and ensure it aligns with your expectations
around sick days and complies with the laws in your area.

At the beginning of cold and
flu season, it’s a good idea to communicate your expectations in writing to
your employees.

Here are some things you can remind them of in your communication:

  • Read your sick-leave policy and ask questions if needed
  • Notify your supervisor if you’re sick for any reason.
  • Don’t come to work with a fever (a temperature of 100.4 or higher).
  • Return to work only after you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication.

As a leader at your company,
it’s also important that you set the example. Stay home when you’re sick and
your employees will feel comfortable doing so, too.

To get more tips on how to
positively influence your team, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and