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Sick? Don't Go To Work!

Cold and flu season means an increased risk of picking up or spreading illnesses at work, especially if people come to work when they're already sick.

When employees come down with the flu or other illness and still go to work, it's called "presenteeism," as opposed to "absenteeism," explains The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

Although it's done out of job dedication in many cases, it really doesn't help to have an employee in the office who is spreading an infection to others, in addition to not being able to work as well due to their own illness.

Some experts say presenteeism can actually result in a greater loss of productivity than absenteeism.

In a new survey, almost half, or 48 percent of employers report a problem with presenteeism. That's up from 39 percent last year, and it's a situation more organizations are taking seriously.

Sixty-two percent say they send sick employees home; 41 percent educate employees on the importance of staying home when sick; and 36 percent try to discourage employees from coming to work when they're ill.

Permitting employees to telecommute when sick is another way employers can approach the problem.

Some companies also try to foster a culture that discourages coming to work when sick, although traditional sick day policies were found to result in employees coming to work when sick if they thought they would be disciplined if they took too many sick days.

Senay says the most common illnesses transmitted around the workplace are colds and flu.

The main way those viruses are spread is from person-to-person in respiratory droplets, when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or by touching a contaminated object or person and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes, or someone else's mouth or nose.

To assure you don't spread illnesses around your office, Senay observes, it's important to stay home until you're feeling better, especially if you have a cough and fever. Stay home until you've been without fever for 24 hours to help prevent spreading the flu.

In the office, avoid close contact with your fellow workers, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, clean your hands regularly, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Infected people may be unaware they're contagious for a period of time before they come down with symptoms, Senay continues.

In addition, it's important for everyone to know and practice personal hygiene all the time, and avoid personal contact such as shaking hands during flu season.