Worker Health Can't Be Ignored


By Ian Ferguson

Well, it is flu season, and many people are deciding whether or not to make an appearance at work or remain safely tucked in bed. There are those among us who consider themselves so career-minded, or think of themselves as so invaluable to the work environment, that they cannot afford to miss a day or two to recover. Many Baby Boomers and veterans, in particular, with such incredible ties to their vocation, sometimes have to be pried away from their desks even in times of illness. They feel a sense of accomplishment, pride and satisfaction in being forced home, even as they went about sluggishly performing their duties.

Truth is, many persons feel as if they have no option, since they have not been afforded the opportunity to take casual/sick days, or would be so adversely affected by doing so it becomes impractical or costly to stay at home. We know the vast majority of persons in the workforce are depending heavily on the weekly wage or monthly earnings, and will think twice about seeing days cut for remaining at home.

This conversation has so far addressed illness from a physical perspective, yet there are many who are emotionally and psychologically unfit for the work environment, and are dreadfully in need of medical and psychiatric assistance. Naturally, this conversation is more sensitive, as we have such a negative view and stigma attached to individuals with psychological deficiencies. Realistically speaking, though, most of us could easily become so overwhelmed or emotionally caught up with life as it happens that we may find ourselves in need of emotional-psychological support, intervention and healing. Just as the contagious employee suffering from the influenza infects, so does the clinically depressed, venom-spewing employee.

Our message today, then, is directed both to employers and employees regarding illnesses of any nature. First, to the employer, here are some things you must do to ensure a healthy and safe work environment:

  1. Provide a health insurance plan for your employees at all levels. Everyone gets sick and needs coverage, executives and line staff.

  2. Make an Employee Assistance Programme available for employees who need support in dealing with stress, grief, trauma and any other trigger of psychological distress.

  3. Enshrine in your culture and policy days for sick leave, and ensure your operational plan for accommodating ‘out’ employees is intact.

To employees, here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to go to work:

  1. How well can you carry out your work duties?

  2. Are you contagious?

  3. Will resting at home help your body to overcome the illness?

  4. Are you taking medications that could impair your ability to think, work, operate machinery or drive?

NB: Ian R. Ferguson was educated locally, regionally and internationally, having earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Miami. During the course of his nearly 20 years in education, talent management and human resources, he has served both the public and private sector in senior management roles. He currently serves as manager of the Chamber Institute, and as a local consultant in the field, having assisted hundreds of local and regional businesses in improving business and service excellence through their human capital.


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