The Advantages of Telecommuting While Sick

Special to bizNEVADA

We’ve all been there. We wake up with a scratchy throat and a cough. We know we’re capable of working,
but should we go into the office? We certainly could bring our Kleenex and runny nose to the office to show
how dedicated we are, but this is a great way to spread germs rather than the camaraderie we intended.

Technology allows many of us to work remotely when we’re feeling a little sick or we need to stay home
with a sick child. For many office workers, a laptop computer and access to the Internet are enough to keep
the project moving, while not risking infecting the rest of the team.

While a cold is not the same as the flu, it could be a precursor and the 2017-2018 flu season is a good
reminder not to take any chances with this potentially deadly disease. According to the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC), the 2017-2018 flu season wasn’t just bad; it was the worst we’ve seen in 40 years. An
estimated 900,000 were hospitalized due to something that can be prevented with a flu vaccine. Of those,
80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter. In addition to the human cost, the CDC
reports that the flu costs the United States more than $87 billion annually and is responsible for the loss of
close to 111 million workdays each flu season.

“Proactive employers are a great barrier against the spread of flu and other contagious illnesses,” shares
Immunize Nevada Executive Director Heidi Parker. “By encouraging employees to get vaccinated and to stay
home when they’re sick, they’re protecting one of their most important investments, their people.”

Allowing employees to work from home when they’re sick is a nice perk, but it does raise issues that need to
be addressed. In order to avoid confusion, it’s important for employers to develop policies for
telecommuting while sick and ensure the same rules apply to everyone. This policy should address when,
and to what capacity, working from home is appropriate. It should also specify what kind of work can be
done remotely. Certain tasks must be done on-site (like those requiring a secure connection), and others
may be so high-level that someone battling an illness shouldn’t complete them. Time tracking is also
important, as is monitoring for patterns. If an employee consistently gets sick before or after three-day
weekends, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. It’s also important to encourage employees to
take the time they need to get better and sometimes sleep is the only answer.

CDC recommends that those who do contract the flu stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone
except to get medical care or other necessities. For those who are pregnant, seniors or immune-
compromised, it is advisable to seek medical attention. For additional resources to keep employees healthy,
visit immunizenevada.org/toolkit/business-toolkit.

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu Nevada has many options for free or low-cost
flu vaccinations.

“Flu season typically peaks early in the year,” Parker shared. “It’s not too late for people to get the flu
vaccine and it could save them weeks of downtime. Or worse.”

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