Why do employees get ill at home?

Over the last few days I've been i'll and perhaps annoyingly for me, I've felt more under-the-weather in the evenings, or as I like to put it, during my own time. But why?

Simon Dalley: BrightHR Brand Marketing Manager

The thing is, people are much more likely to get sick whilst they’re at home than when they’re working and this is an important thing to understand.

Is being ill an excuse?

I’ve worked for a number of business owners who have been dismissive of people that get ill with a number of them exclaiming that they’ve never had a day off to sickness in their working lives and that they can’t understand why their employees are ill.

Likewise, I’ve heard business owners question people taking sick days believing the only reason people take sick days is to go for job interviews.

In addition I’ve heard murmuring’s about why employees tend to be ill on a Monday after having had the weekend to be ill.

I suppose if you were to put yourself in the shoes of a business owner or manager you might easily see things from this perspective. It might not be the best way to look at the world and at least once or twice you’d probably be right.

Home time sickness

However, if you think about it, it’s perhaps most likely that people will get ill at home more than they would at work. For one thing, we all spend a lot more time at home than we do at work, with most of us spending something like 14 hours at home compared to the average 10 hour working day and commute.

There has also been a number of scientific studies into this, with many of them coming to the same conclusion: whilst at work the body is in a higher state of stress than it would be whilst at home or at rest, and it’s in this higher state of stress that the body is able to mask the illness.

What’s being ill got to do with an employer?

You might initially think “great” if an employee manages to struggle through during the day time and defeats the illness in the evenings then that’s a win-win, for the business, however this is rarely the case.

Often, when someone is fighting off an infection at work, they risk infecting a number of their colleagues and also dragging their illness out for days or weeks longer than is necessary.

A business should be encouraging its employees to go home and get better if they’re ill. Why? Because the last thing a company wants is for a number of the team to be ill and for productivity to drop. But before this can happen there needs to be a culture of empowerment in the team. There needs to be permission for people not to come into the office when they’re ill. A great place to start is with sick pay.

Statutory sick pay is a government provided scheme that pays people per week after they’ve had a certain amount of time off sick — and it’s limited to a maximum time period. The thing is, an employee has to be off for a certain number of days in order to qualify and, even when they are eligible for it, the average person earning the average wage of almost £27,000 per year is going to be hit with a huge pay gap. This means many of them will struggle through, risk infecting the people around them and reducing their level of productivity for a longer period of time.

Being thoughtful when your employees don’t feel well

Fortunately, at BrightHR many of our team members can work from home, which means in these circumstances, employees can continue to work without losing a day’s pay. This also means that they’ll be working in an environment where they can rest more and in which they should be able to get better quicker.

Considering options such as work from home policies and extended sick leave pay may be all that’s required to ensure your business operates at peak productivity throughout the winter seasons.

So, if you ever catch yourself questioning why your employees always seem to get ill at home bear in mind that it’s probably not their fault, it’s just part and parcel of being ill.

But remember, even if you operate the most liberal policies around working from home and sickness there will still be those in your business who will need to be coaxed home, it’s your task to make sure they don’t feel they have to soldier on.


Having an issue with employee illness? Download our guide to help you plan ahead for unplanned absence or why not request a free demo and see how BrightHR can help your business.