You Make Me Sick!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Sue likes her job except at this time of year. First, she had to listen to coworkers talk about their snow and ice adventures. Now she’s listening to many of them cough, sneeze and wheeze all day. Flu season seems worse than last year based on the disgusting noises she’s hearing in cubicle world.

In the next cubicle is Patty who has the flu although she claims it’s just a head cold. Sue’s pretty sure that Patty showed up at work while she had a fever because three coworkers quickly succumbed to the crud after getting too close to Patty.

Now coworkers run away when Patty lurches into sight. Sue can’t escape because they share a cubicle wall. She wipes down her cubicle hourly but that’s not enough. Sue’s heard less gross noises from her cat, Pixel, when he’s coughing up a hair ball.

She complained to Meg, the HR rep, who stopped by to suggest that Patty might be better off at home in bed. Patty croaked that she didn’t want to waste all her PTO days because her husband has promised her a really nice vacation this year. If she uses all her PTO, she won’t have any days left for her vacation.

Meanwhile, their supervisor, Wesley, sits in his office up the hall doing whatever bosses do all day. He can close his door, thinks Sue resentfully, and tune out their suffering. Wesley is young, and he is fixated on not screwing up his future promotional chances. So he blindly enforces the rules on attendance arguing that he has no power to change them.

The company policy sets out a limited number of PTO days a year and doesn’t allow any carry-over. The owner discourages working remotely because he’s afraid staff will goof off. Sue and others grumble quietly because they doubt the company will revise its PTO policy.

What can Meg, the HR rep, do to help the grossed-out employees?

  1. She can set up a sterilization chamber at the entrance and require all workers to hose themselves with disinfectant before entering the office.
  2. She can ramp up recruitment efforts to replace employees who leave voluntarily for better benefits or involuntarily with the EMT’s.
  3. She can suggest that the company revise its PTO policy to allow extra days during seasonal events like flu season.

Employers face a dilemma. They need to balance productivity and staffing requirements against the losses caused by sick employees who show up to work. Adapting leave policies or allowing employees to work remotely are two options.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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