Editor's Note: Under pressure
Safety+Health’s most recent poll asked, “Do you believe most workers feel pressured to come to work when sick?” An overwhelming 91 percent of respondents answered “yes.”
Paid sick time is a hot topic. If you read S+H regularly, you’ve seen our news coverage of states and municipalities debating whether to guarantee all workers the ability – as advocates say – to not have to choose between caring for themselves or receiving a paycheck.
I haven’t been able to shake a memory from last winter, when I stopped at a store during a brutal cold snap and saw a checker – a frail-looking woman in her 60s who was so obviously sick and miserable and should have been resting – who clearly was in a “no work, no pay” situation. It was a sobering reminder of how fortunate I am to have paid sick time.
Any pressure I feel to work when sick is purely self-imposed. A week ago, I took a sick day. Because S+H was in production, I still feel guilty about it, despite my supervisor and colleagues having actively encouraged me throughout the week to go home – for my sake and theirs.
I pressured myself to go to work because I wanted to support my team, and I told myself my symptoms weren’t contagious. But did I really know that? Now that I’m feeling better – and this issue of S+H is ready to go to the printer – I regret having potentially put my co-workers at risk.
A respondent to the S+H poll said working while unwell is part of the American culture. I believe that’s true. It’s a struggle to change the attitudes I’ve developed over a lifetime of school and work, but I’m trying. Let’s hope that employers who don’t yet offer paid sick time change their minds, and that people like me, who already have the benefit of paid time off, can adjust our mindsets and help make the workplace a healthier environment.