Sick? Work at Home. Your Colleagues Will Thank You!

I'm blogging from home today because I caught a nasty cold in Chicago. But I'm lucky. I'm young, I'm nobody's breadwinner, and the Atlantic Media Company offers paid time off. The New York Times explains why that's particularly good news for my cubicle colleagues Dan Indiviglio and Chris Good. When sick people come into work because they think they need the money, proximate workers catch the bug.

"Providing workers with paid sick days is essential if we're going to get serious about the public health recommendations for swine flu -- stay home until 24 hours after your fever is broken. That usually takes about five days."...

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39 percent of private-sector workers do not receive paid sick leave...

"Employers who do not offer sick days are not prepared to offer them now, and they recognize that this may result in not achieving what they say they would like, which is that people who are sick stay home."

Here's another doozy for the Chamber of Commerce. In the abstract, a generous PTO policy would seem to encourage lazy holidays and slimmer profit margins. But during flu outbreaks, the workplace is essentially a life-size petri dish. You want your workers to stay home. You want their hands off the elevator buttons and the office coffee pot. This is especially true when your job can be home-sourced or telecommuted.

As a coda, this reminds me of the brief but torrid debate over illegal immigrants and health care reform. This is an emotional issue, and I once suggested that the Democrats should cave on it if health reform required concessions. But even if you're steadfast against providing care for undocumented workers, you can still imagine how refusing health care for tens of millions of workers could result in the illness of millions of legal colleagues. Contagious viruses don't require proof of citizenship.