I have been inundated with e-mails regarding the H1N1 flu virus that is sweeping the world. Whatever I did to get on these lists, I appreciate the reminder that living in a state of physical isolation helps insulate me from all of your petty diseases. For those of us who don’t have that option though, what can you do to fight the disease? If you’re in the working world, the answer is simple:
Change Your Company Culture
Why? In many companies, the stigma of calling in sick (or worse, calling in with kids sick) is incredibly strong. Strong enough to compel even the most disgustingly sick to try to “stick it out” and “give it a go.” When their manager sees them, they say something along the lines of “Thanks for at least trying to come in. You can go home now.” Thanks for trying? Like it is a good thing to try to soldier through illness and expose your workforce to potential harm?
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
If your company is actually serious about stopping the threat of H1N1 (or any easily communicable disease), they would do the following:
- Provide a generous sick time allowance so people don’t have to choose between working sick or not paying the bills.
- Allow work from home whenever possible and get systems set up to accommodate it now.
- Don’t allow anyone to work sick, discourage it from the top down and lead by example at every. single. turn.
- Punitive measures for parents of sick children? Now your crappy policies impact daycare providers and other caretakers.
- Advise managers on identifying warning signs and teach them how to balance workloads.
- Understand the impact that forcing a sick person into work can have (hint: this person can get your healthy employees sick)
Not doing all of these? Then you’re paying lip service and are part of the problem.
And really, this goes for any communicable illness like the annual seasonal flu. Poor policy making on the part of companies or poorly conceived company cultures have caused millions of hours of lost productivity in the workplace. All because we couldn’t stand to lose 16–40 hours of productivity from a single employee.
And why do we do things this way? So we can prevent a few abusers of the system? Employees that do that are, at least in my experience, already poor performers who should be managed up or out. Here’s the real question: why are you still employing these losers? Drop them.
Now even as an individual employee, you can follow the CDC’s advice to the letter and still get in trouble because the company’s culture hasn’t shifted. You can either see your career prospects plummet as a sickly or needy employee or you can actually get the same disease from your co-workers who are trying to stick it out. That’s why it is a company wide thing. That’s why it is a culture thing. Are you ready to get on board?