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43% of workers think it's 'selfish' for colleagues to come into the office with a cold

43% of workers think it is 'selfish' for colleagues to come to work when they have a cold. (Getty Images)
43% of workers think it is 'selfish' for colleagues to come to work when they have a cold. (Getty Images)

You've woken up with a streaming cold and, after blowing your nose for the umpteenth time, you're questioning whether you're well enough to go into work?

If you made the decision to dose yourself up and head on into the office you certainly wouldn't be alone as new research has revealed that three quarters of employees still feel obliged to go into work when they have a cold.

Don't expect to be welcomed by your colleagues, however, as 57% would prefer it if their co-workers didn't swap their bed for their desk, with 43% describing it as "selfish" when people struggle into the workplace when ill.

And don't be thinking there will be the odd under-the-breath tut when you let out another giant sneeze, as almost half (49%) of those polled would feel totally comfortable making it known they weren’t happy about someone coming in with a cold.

While coughing nearby was found to be the biggest annoyance, other gripes include colleagues not covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing (46%), failing to wash their hands afterwards (36%) and not using tissues (35%) - grim!

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Three quarters of workers feel pressure to head into work even when they have a cold. (Getty Images)
Three quarters of workers feel pressure to head into work even when they have a cold. (Getty Images)

When it comes to the reasons poorly folk still head into the office, it seems many still feel the need to 'power through' - with attitudes seemingly returning to their pre-pandemic ways.

Not wanting to be considered ‘unreliable’ (42%), feeling bad about leaving others in the lurch (41%) and having too much to do (34%) are among the reasons cited for not calling in sick.

While 38% want to make a point of coming in just to show their co-workers and their boss they are genuinely unwell.

The research, also found that around a fifth (21%) want to illustrate how hard working they are and a further fifth (18%) have zero faith in their colleagues to pick up the work slack.

A hardy six in 10 (59%) also feel the best way to get over a cold is to carry on regardless, with 61% admitting they have a tendency to convince themselves they're not actually that ill.

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The poll, of 2,000 employed adults by Bronchostop, highlights the existence of illness unease, with a third (34%) saying they feel guilty for taking time off with a cold – with most people only allowing themselves to take two or three days off work, deeming that as the most ‘acceptable’ length of time.

As a result, the average person has been to work an average of four times with symptoms such as cough, runny nose, headache or sore throat.

Unsurprisingly, however, this could have a potential knock-on impact on the health of co-workers with 48% claiming they believe they have picked up a cold from another colleague in the past year.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, also found a quarter of co-workers have actively tried to keep their cold symptoms a secret.

Read more: Office workers 'swear approximately 55 times a week' - here's why

Wanting to be seen as trustworthy and working in a competitive job are amongst the reasons employees with cold symptoms would keep their illness under wraps.

Commenting on the findings Farah Ali, superintendent pharmacist and spokesperson for Bronchostop, says: “In the last couple of years, the perception of the common cough or cold has changed.

“With more flexible working in place and a heightened focus on wellbeing, many feel as though colleagues who are feeling under the weather should be staying at home to rest and recuperate.’’

Coughing or sneezing near others is one of the top worker gripes. (Getty Images)
Coughing or sneezing near others is one of the top worker gripes. (Getty Images)

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If you still feel pressure to head into work, however, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself and your colleagues.

“This peak cough and cold season, it’s so important to look after yourself when you feel common cold symptoms such as a cough coming on and to take precautions if you do need to go into work," Ali continues.

“That might be taking some appropriate medicine, keeping your distance from co-workers and remembering to wash your hands to keep germs away.”

Top 10 gripes about co-workers with colds

  1. Coughing close to me

  2. When they don’t cover their mouth when coughing/sneezing

  3. When they don’t wash their hands after they’ve coughed or sneezed into their hands

  4. When they don’t use tissues

  5. Coughing loudly all day

  6. When they don’t wash their hands regularly

  7. Sniffing

  8. When they don’t take time to clean surfaces – like their desk, keyboard etc

  9. When they moan

  10. The act of them coming in at all

Ali has put together some of the best ways to treat a cold without powering through

  1. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water

  2. Have some hot drinks, with added honey and lemon, to soothe your throat (however, this is not suitable for children under one)

  3. Get plenty of rest and stay at home if you’re feeling too unwell to do daily activities

  4. If you’re experiencing a continuous cough that’s proving hard to shift, pick up an effective cough remedy

  5. If you’re experiencing any kind of pain or high temperature, consider taking a painkiller. Speak to a pharmacist if there is any concern