Nearly three in four workers go to work when they are sick, making it more likely that others can become ill, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

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Poll: Three-quarters of employees go to work when sick

January 20th, 2011

CHICAGO – Nearly three in four workers go to work when they are sick, making it more likely that others can become ill, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

The employment and job resource provider said Wednesday that 72% of the more than 3,900 full-time U.S. workers polled said they typically go to work when they're sick. The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.

According to the findings, workplace pressures and "presenteeism" may be causing workers to go in under the weather, as 55% said they feel guilty if they call in sick.

The high percentage of sick employees heading to work likely means they're passing on their germs to others. Over half of respondents (53%) said they have gotten sick from a co-worker who came to the office ill, and 12% said they picked up a bug from someone who was sick on public transportation going to or from work.

"It's important for employees to take care of their health and the health of others by staying at home if they aren't feeling well," stated Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Even if workers feel pressure to be at the office, they should talk to their managers about staying home if they are sick or ask about other options such as working remotely. Most employers are flexible and understand that employees are more productive if they are feeling their best."

Nearly one in five (19%) of employees said their companies provided flu shots at the office, and 38% said they were proactive and got a flu shot this year.

When workers were asked what other ways they attempt to avoid germs, 78% said "I wash my hands often," 32% said "I carry hand sanitizer with me and use it often," 30% said "I regularly clean my keyboard, phone, desk, etc.," 15% said "I avoid shaking hands with people," and 3% said "I skip meetings where I know people are sick."

CareerBuilder's findings come as the cold and flu season nears its peak, typically around February. Earlier this week, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) reminded consumers to follow good health practices to prevent the spread of influenza, colds and other transmissible illnesses.

APhA is encouraging people to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth; and wash their hands frequently. Other good health practices include using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; getting plenty of regular sleep; and avoiding work, school or other places of close contact when you are sick, the association said.

In addition, APhA is pointing consumers to their community pharmacist for information and counsel during the cold and flu season. The association noted that a pharmacist can help patients with such things as getting a flu shot, identifying the differences between a common cold and the flu, suggesting the best over-the-counter medications and explaining how to use them properly and safely, and offering a recommendation about when a doctor should be seen.