Over Half of Employees Want Stricter Policies on This One Thing

Employees say stricter illness policies would make them feel better about returning to work.

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As states begin to reopen, many Americans will soon be leaving the relative comfort of home to return to their workplaces. Moving back into a space full of people who could potentially be infected with coronavirus is enough to make anyone a bit wary, but a new survey from architecture, design, and consulting firm Gensler reveals that there's something employers can do to make their employees more comfortable about returning to work: implement stricter policies against working while sick.

In Gensler's "U.S. Work From Home Study 2020," which polled more than 2,300 workers in 10 industries, 55 percent of those surveyed said that having stricter workplace policies against working while sick would make them feel more at ease when heading back to the office. Individuals polled additionally noted that increasing office cleaning, spreading out work spaces, and providing more opportunities to work remotely would increase their comfort levels as well.

More controversially, 31 percent of those polled said they would also feel positively about their workplace discouraging employees from riding public transportation, with an additional 48 percent taking a neutral stance on the issue.

30 something woman sick at home on couch
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However, forcing employees to stay home while sick would mean providing adequate sick leave, and that would require serious structural changes at many companies. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, as of March 2019, 76 percent of civilian workers—which excludes agricultural, domestic, government, and volunteer workers, as well as those who set their own wages and those being paid by family members—have access to paid sick leave. Among low-income individuals, that number drops dramatically: Only 31 percent of workers earning under $11 per hour have paid sick leave available to them.

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Fortunately, the benefits of providing sick leave would overwhelmingly outweigh the disadvantages—particularly with coronavirus still looming large, and employees wanting their sick coworkers to stay home. According to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, in a simulated flu epidemic, if employees were to take just two days off, the spread of the virus in a workplace could drop by as much as 40 percent. From an economic standpoint, sick days are beneficial as well: 2014 research from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that paid sick leave boosted both workplace productivity and employee morale, which can lead to greater employee retention.

When it comes to reducing the spread of coronavirus, there's no doubt about it—staying home is absolutely crucial. According to a May 2020 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, when compared to areas with no stay-home mandates, areas with stay-home orders had approximately 49 percent fewer coronavirus cases and 60 percent fewer coronavirus fatalities after just three weeks. And if you're wondering how work will look different when you return, check out these 5 Things You'll Never See in Your Office Again After Coronavirus.

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