'Office Martyrdom' rife as employees prioritise work over well-being

November 21, 2013, 12:01 AM GMT+0

Research commissioned by Citrix has revealed office workers that ‘soldier on’ despite illness are doing the business (and their colleagues) more harm than good.

Nearly half of UK office workers (46%), and 56% of senior business decision makers surveyed think ‘office martyrs’ for the spread of illness within the workplace, with nearly two thirds (62%) of employers believing that having sick employees in the office damages business productivity.

The research, also revealed that nearly a quarter of office workers (24%) stated that one of the reasons why their colleagues don’t like taking sick leave is because they worry about their workload, pointing to a potential reason for the ‘martyrdom’. This is despite a majority (71%) of employers agreeing that, if workers have to work when sick, they would rather they do so from home.

Tackling office martyrdom

Current policies allowing employees to work from home differ in terms of scope and parameter across the respondent pool. Only 17% of senior business decision makers surveyed claimed to have a policy that allows employees to work from home whenever needed, one in five (20%) have a working from home policy that differs depending on the employees’ position in the company, and a similar figure (22%) of senior business decision makers stated their company does not currently have a home working policy, and employees are expected to work in the office unless they are ill.

However, the research highlights a clear need for employers to allow staff to work remotely to avoid catching office illnesses:

  • 56% of office workers agreed they would care more about their own well-being if they had the freedom to work flexibly during peaks of office sickness
  • 45% of office workers agreed they would work remotely to avoid catching an illness going round the office
  • 52% of office workers would prefer to work from home for the duration of their own illness, to avoid spreading it to others
  • 51% of workers agreed that the office would generally be more productive if ill colleagues stayed at home for the duration of their illness
  • 59% of office workers agreed ill colleagues can still be productive working from home

The blame game

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of workers blamed the spread of germs on their colleagues’ poor personal hygiene (not washing hands, coughing / sneezing openly). Other causes of infection identified were colleagues catching their children’s illnesses (40%) and air conditioning units (38%).

“Workplaces can be a hub for germs to harbour and spread,” said James Stevenson, area vice president of Northern Europe at Citrix. “The cost of martyrdom is a very real threat to business productivity. Coughs, colds and flu are sometimes unavoidable, but businesses that enable their workforce to work remotely stand a better chance of containing the impact of illness. Providing employees with the tools to work from home will help keep productivity high, and minimise the impact to a business’ bottom line.”

Citrix UK FluView

With the flu jab season well under way, and coughs and colds beginning to sweep the nation, Citrix has launched UK FluView – a live interactive map tracking the spread of illness across 14 cities. The map correlates Twitter hashtags, identifying popular mentions of malady, and highlighting the cities with the most amount of illness. See for yourself here:

See the full results here