Here's How Many of Us Go to Work Sick

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Cold season. Flu season. Airplane crud. Contact with toddlers. It's no surprise that work is a hotbed of pathogens, given that it's where we spend the vast majority of our waking hours. Unfortunately, that also means that in a given day, you're shockingly likely to share space with someone who's contagious or sick.

If you've got a strong stomach, get ready for an ugly number. A survey released in December found that 9 out of 10 employees come to work even when they've got cold or flu symptoms. About a third of survey respondents said they always go to work when they're sick, no exceptions. More than half said they do so because they've got too much work and can't fall behind.

This data says much more about the pressures of workplace culture more widely than the prevalence of inconsiderate colleagues. In a world with better support for workers, taking a sick day (if it's available at all) wouldn't be a dire choice that could imperil your workload or your job itself. Forty percent of survey respondents said they came to work sick because they didn't want to use up a sick day, while 34 percent cited pressure from an employer to come in while unwell.

And yet, the simplest solution remains the best: "Staying home when you've got a cold or the flu is the best way to avoid spreading germs to others and fight the illness faster," said Michael Steinitz, speaking for the research team. "Bosses should set an example by taking time off when they're under the weather, encouraging employees to do the same and offering those with minor ailments the ability to work from home."