Stop being a hero: Half of workers who get the flu go to work anyway

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

More than half of surveyed office workers who came down with the flu last year came into work despite the illness. Please, stop. Seriously.


This is the sixth annual survey conducted by Staples and Redshift Research on workers' knowledge about and attitude toward the flu. The survey asked 1,500 U.S. workers to answer questions about flu prevention, symptoms, and transmission, and asked those who had contracted the disease if they went in to work anyway. 55% said yes.

That doesn't mean that 55% of workers don't understand how the flu works—according to the survey, 88% said they've told a fellow colleague to go home when they get sick. Plus, 54% said they know that the virus can thrive on a surface for up to 72 hours. 43% said they're aware that adult flu patients can be contagious for about a week—from the day before symptoms appear until 5 to 7 days after.

The survey also asked people who come into work while suffering from the flu why they do so. 58% said they're just too busy at work to take a sick day. Three years ago, only 30% of relevant workers gave that answer. 19% said their bosses expect them to come in, even when sick. Managers feel that pressure from their higher ups at an even steeper rate, 30%. And 39% of managers said they think coming in sick shows "extra initiative," as do 28% of office workers. All of these numbers are too high!

In an article on the cost of the flu, the University of Utah's Melinda Rogers cited a study showing that a sick day costs employers $135, on average. Rogers continued:

For those with jobs that don’t include paid sick time, the average person loses $92 per year when they get sick. Illness from the flu costs the average person about $130 between visiting the doctor and purchasing medicine.

And the CDC points out that overall, the U.S. economy suffers from a loss of $10.4 billion each year because of flu-related hospital visits. Walgreens released a survey in 2013 that described the effects of 2012's severe flu season, as compared to the previous years normal one:

The severity of last year’s flu season resulted in three times the impact to employers when compared to a more typical flu season: $10.5 billion in 2010-11 versus $30.4 billion in 2012-13.


Plus, going to work with the flu could put people beyond your immediate co-workers at risk, like the people who stand next to you on the bus or the train. And the flu can be fatal for some. So don't be a hero. Get a flu shot. If you get sick, take a day off. Feel sorry for yourself in a pile of tissues and watch a rom-com. Your country will thank you for it.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.