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Should people with sniffly noses come to work?

on Friday, 15 June 2018. Posted in Occupational Health

Sniffly nose at work

Statistics show that many kiwi workers turn up to work sick. The Bus NZ/Southern Cross 'Wellness in the Workplace Survey Report' (2017) found that 46% of workers still come to work when they are unwell. And, we’ve all done it haven’t we? But is turning up to work with a common cold such a bad thing?

Professor Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University says that it's fine to go into work if you feel well enough.

"If people didn't go into work when they had colds, the economy would grind to a halt”

He argues that going to work with a cold isn’t selfish, because most colds are caught at home. That said, if you work with vulnerable groups like the elderly, people with respiratory conditions, those undergoing chemotherapy or young children, you might want to assess the risk more carefully.

It is likely you will be less productive at work with a cold. So, if you can, avoid tasks that require a lot of mental or physical effort for the first couple of days.

Be hygienic at work

The best thing to do is to aim for hygiene at work. We are most infectious in the early phases of a cold when we are coughing, sneezing and have a dripping nose.

Here are some useful tips for the NZ Ministry of Health:

• Turn away from others and use tissues when you cough or sneeze - then put the tissue in a lined bin.
• Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
• Wash your hands often and especially before touching food, dishes, glasses and cutlery.
• Use paper towels in bathrooms.
• Don't let your nose or mouth touch public telephones or drinking fountains.
• Don't share food or eating utensils with others.
• Avoid close contact with others for the first 2–4 days.

Workplace policy

Workplaces can also promote good infection control. Here are a few free downloadable posters:

Finally, organisations should have a contingency in place to prevent people from having to turn up to work if they are really crook. The Bus NZ/Southern Cross 'Wellness in the Workplace Survey Report' (2017) mentioned above, recommends that workplaces find ways to support unwell staff to return to full productivity quicker, by making it clear that rest and recovery at home is important.

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BusinessNZ/Southern Cross. (2017). Wellness in the workplace 2017: Survey report: Southern Cross/Business NZ

Ministry of Health. (2018). Colds. Retrieved 15 June, 2018, from

The Guardian. (n.d). Should I go to work with a cold. Retrieved 15 June, 2018, from

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