Monday, May 18, 2020

Sickness presenteeism: we need to rethink going to work when we're sick

Covid-19, influenza-like illness, ILI, veterinary wellbeing, public heath
Covid-19 is changing the way we think about sick days, personal wellbeing, public health and PPE.

One of the things that Covid-19 has already changed is our attitude to sick-days. For a long time, many of us have assumed that its better to soldier on when we’re not feeling well. We do so to avoid letting colleagues down, to ensure continuity of care, and sometimes out of financial necessity. It may also be because there’s just no hard and fast rule about what constitutes “too sick to work”.

Veterinary team members aren’t the only people who struggle on. A medical colleague co-authored this global study comparing work related behaviour and the phenomenon of “sickness presenteeism” (essentially, turning up to work when you are sick) in health care workers vs non health care workers. Influenza like illness in health care workers is a particular concern given their contact with vulnerable persons. But Covid-19 has highlighted just how much non-medics have contact with vulnerable persons.

Anyway, in this study the researchers surveyed 533 people across 49 countries (getting a large number of responses on a global survey is a tough gig!). Of those, the majority (58.5%) would continue to go to work with signs of an influenza-like illness. How does that play out? Well, 26.9% of healthcare workers would go to work with a fever (versus 16.2% of the non-health care worker population), while 89.2-99.2% of health care workers would go to work with one or more of the following: sore throat, sinus cold, fatigue, sneezing, runny nose, mild cough and/or reduced appetite. That compares with 80-96.5% of the non-healthcare worker population.

The authors recommend better sick-leave policy management and greater uptake of the influenza vaccine. This is especially pertinent given that signs of Covid-19 are very similar to ILI.

You can read the full paper here

It will be very interesting to see whether sickness presenteeism is reduced since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the topic of self-care, a colleague shared this monthly action calendar from Action for Happiness. You can view and download a copy here

Veterinarian Joe Herbert has started a facebook group to promote well-being in the vet profession. The group is for veterinarians.