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Feeling sick? going to work is a bad idea

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High job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are sick, according to new research.

The Centre for Mental Health calculated that presenteeism (going to work when sick) from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion a year.  Dr Mariella Miraglia of UEA’s Norwich Business School says, “Working while sick can compound the effects of the initial illness and result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work. However, the possible negative consequences of being absent can prompt employees to show up ill or to return to work when not totally recovered. Organisations may want to carefully review attendance policies for features which could decrease absence at the cost of increased presenteeism.”

Job demands, such as workload, under staffing, overtime and time pressure, along with difficulty of finding cover and personal financial difficulties, were found to be key reasons why people might not take a day off. Conflict between work and family, and vice versa, and being exposed to harassment, abuse, and discrimination at work were also positively related to presenteeism. This is because these negative experiences can exacerbate stress and harm health, requiring employees to choose between going to work and staying away.

“Workplace wellness and health programmes may be desirable to reduce stress and work-related illness.” said Dr Miraglia.” Organisations may benefit from well-designed jobs that limit the level of demands to which employees are exposed to every day, for example by reducing excessive workload, time pressure and overtime work, as well as making sure they have the resources they need.”


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