fluAmericans don’t like to take sick days – and when they’re sick, they don’t take steps to prevent co-workers from getting sick, too.

Those conclusions come from a new study commissioned by Cintas Corporation, which found that 84% of U.S. adults who are employed have gone to work while sick. Of those, 45 percent don’t warn co-workers about their illness, and 45 percent don’t avoid direct contact – such as shaking hands – which could transmit an illness to others.

“Workplaces can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria when workers engage in presenteeism, or attending work while sick,” said John Amann, Vice President, First Aid & Safety, Cintas. :Since presenteeism reduces business productivity, it’s important for people to take the proper steps to protect themselves and others, like avoiding contact and warning co-workers of their illness.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. population suffers 1 billion colds each year.

Those who said they did use precautions to avoid infecting others in the workplace said they did the following:

  • I regularly wash my hands/use hand sanitizer 77 percent
  • I sneeze/cough into my sleeve 67 percent
  • I bring my own medication to work 54 percent
  • I regularly wipe down my workspace 34 percent

Cintas recommends that organizations keep first aid cabinets on-site and stocked with products like decongestant, cold relief, and sore throat relief solutions, calling them “small investments upfront can reduce the impact of sickness and keep workers healthy and productive.”

Individually-sealed, tamper-evident packets of cough drops and non-drowsy medicine, such as Dayquil and Mucinex, can avoid the risk of workers taking the incorrect dosage or using sleep-inducing formulas.

“By stocking cabinets for cold-weather months, employers can keep productivity on track, prevent the escalation of sickness, and reduce OSHA recordable cases,” said Amann.