Alarming new research has revealed that, as more people head back to the workplace, 70 percent of Aussies have said they would present to work with cold or flu symptoms.
The findings come from an independent survey – conducted in June this year – of a nationally representative panel of 1000 Australian employees, commissioned by Cleancorp – a specialist Australian anti-viral cleaning company that has helped hundreds of organisations keep their workplaces and communities safe during the pandemic.
The Australian Government has told Australians to stay home and get tested for COVID-19 if they feel unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones.
Even so, research from Cleancorp found that more than half (54 percent) of Aussies would present to work with a headache.
Although a stuffy nose, runny nose, sore throat, tingly throat, or fatigue could be early symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, an equal 38 percent of respondents said they would still go into the office with these symptoms.
Thirty-two (32) percent would present to work with a cough, 22 percent would do so with a stomach ache, and a fifth (20 percent) would go in with muscle or body aches and chills.
It seems that under-30s would be more likely to present to work with cold or flu symptoms.
Forty-seven (47) percent would do so with a sore or tingly throat, 46 per cent with a runny or stuffy nose, 40 percent with a cough, 27 percent with a stomach ache, and 18 percent with nausea – all higher proportions than the total respondent average.
When asked to reveal why they would present to work with these symptoms, the most common answer (chosen by 58 percent of respondents) is that the symptoms are not serious enough to justify taking time off work.
Forty-two (42) percent say it’s because they would have too much on at work, with no one else available to do their job.
Twenty-nine (29) percent think their employer won’t regard their symptoms as serious enough, while an equal 24 percent don’t want to use up their sick leave or say they will have pressure from their employer to present to work.
Casual workers are a concern
The survey results highlight an issue concerning casual and contract workers, who do not receive payment for sick or annual leave.
More than a fifth (21 per cent) of survey respondents admit they would present to work with cold or flu symptoms because they cannot afford to not get paid.
With more than 2.6 million casual workers in Australia, this indicates that 546,000 casual workers would present to work with symptoms.
Casual workers are predominantly employed in retail, social assistance services, construction, health, education and road transport – workplaces that, especially in the current coronavirus climate, are generally difficult to operate with workers in self-isolation.
Lisa Macqueen, Co-Founder and Director at Cleancorp, says: “Now that we are facing the genuine threat of a virus ‘double whammy’ – COVID-19 and the flu – it is more important than ever not to go to work when feeling unwell.
Our findings reveal that many employees come to work when sick because of feelings of guilt or a fear of being judged by their bosses. However, now that we’re in a pandemic, going to work sick because you feel obliged to is no longer acceptable.
She adds: “While it is encouraging to see that many of our clients are asking for heavy-duty anti-viral cleans, we need to see a strong shift towards a ‘stay at home if you’re unwell’ mentality to contain the coronavirus successfully.”