Feeling Sick? Co-Workers Suggest You Stay Home

A massive 84% of Canadian white-collar workers say they have caught a cold at work – and 66% of those sufferers lay the blame on their co-workers, according to an Office Pulse survey.


Cold and flu season is in full force, and that means many business professionals are having to make the tough decision of whether or not to come into work sick. Should you risk spreading your germs with symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, or should you use up one of those precious sick days? Most people opt for the former.

Do you go into the office when you feel sick?



Nearly 80% of Canadian office workers will persevere and head into work when sick – a significantly higher number than their American counterparts (70%). Men are the biggest culprits when it comes to going into the office while ill, with 90% reporting having done so in the past. It’s no wonder then that 84% report having caught a cold at work. The majority (66%) of these sufferers are quick to blame their co-workers, but can they really point the finger when they would do the same?

Working Through The Pain

Just over two thirds (68%) of workers won’t call in sick unless their symptoms are considered severe. Only a quarter will call in for medium maladies, which makes the workplace a prime site for germs. In general, Baby Boomers are the least likely to call in sick for any degree of symptom severity. And, even when workers do call in sick, some 55% say they end up having to work all the same.

How severe do your symptoms have to be for you to call in sick from work?


(Groggy, headache)

Millennial (6%)

Gen X (8%)

Baby Boomer (0%)


(Stuffy nose,
sore throat)

Millennial (25%)

Gen X (25%)

Baby Boomer (30%)


(Fever, chills)

Millennial (68%)

Gen X (68%)

Baby Boomer (70%)


There also seems to be a relationship between income and working from home while sick. Some 30% of professionals earning less than $100K said they were likely to call in sick, while professionals earning $100K+ opt to go into the office (64%) or work from home (29%).

Stick it out to get ahead?

Some look unfavourably on their cold-ridden co-workers. Under half (44%) of respondents view persevering through a fever at the office as dedication. Some even consider afflicted workers at work as selfish (31%) or even stupid (25%). If you can tolerate body aches and the sniffles it is likely you can withstand the withering glares of your peers. Nearly all (95%) professionals feel that their productivity is reduced when they’re sick, but many believe working through an illness is better than the alternative.

If you work while sick, why do you do it?

I need to get stuff done, can’t fall behind
Don’t want to lose my time off
My boss expects me to work, even when sick
I’d rather work than lie in bed

Even though half of business professionals report not wanting to fall behind at work, about 1 in 4 (24%) admit that they’ve called in sick when they were perfectly healthy! That number goes up to 32% when looking specifically at those earning less than $100K.

Other insights include:

  • 70% of business professionals would rather sit through a 2-hour meeting than have a sick co-worker come into work
  • 55% of respondents report that their office gives access to flu shots
  • 95% of business professionals feel that their productivity is reduced when they’re sick


Though many fear falling behind at work due to illness, most would agree that making an appearance at the office is not the best idea. The quicker you get healthy, the more productive you’ll be and your co-workers will thank you for sparing them of your symptoms.


About Office Pulse

Office Pulse by Captivate offers marketers timely analysis and insights from a proprietary panel of upscale professionals in the top markets. The Office Pulse panel of more than 8,000 influential consumers and business decision makers includes C-level executives, Millennials, middle management, small business owners, working women and working moms.

About Captivate

Known for its vast network of nearly 12,000 elevator displays located in 1,600 premier office buildings across North America, Captivate connects advertisers with 13 million unique monthly viewers through creative, research-driven and Nielsen-measured advertising and marketing programs. By engaging its viewers with timely news and actionable information that helps balance the personal and professional demands of the workday, Captivate provides advertisers with a highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential business professionals. Founded in 1997, Captivate is owned by Generation Partners. For more information, please visit www.captivate.com.