“Productivity” Trumps Flu Prevention

More than half (53%) of respondents to a survey from Staples report having gone to work with the flu—despite knowing how this might affect their coworkers and company line.

In its sixth annual flu season survey, Staples found that most working Americans have some understanding of how to stay healthy—or at least avoid infecting other people with a contagious virus—but few are willing (or able) to stay out of the office for long if they become infected.

“It’s encouraging to see that employees have a strong understanding of flu risks and prevention, but there’s still work to be done,” says Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona. “The flu wreaks havoc on U.S. employees and, in turn, on businesses every year. Simple measures such as cleaning, sanitizing and limiting exposure can make a huge difference.”

Ninety percent of respondents know they can protect themselves from the flu by eating healthily and washing their hands regularly. Roughly half (54%) know flu viruses can live up to three days on a surface, and 43% know they may be contagious for a full day before flu symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after getting sick.

Still, of the one-third (30%) of respondents who caught the flu last year, 55% went into the office. Six in 10 (59%) say they should stay home for two to three days when sick—88% even encouraged sick colleagues to go home—but only 43% actually do so.

NEXT: Pressure to work and workplace losses.