Texas state study: More pressure to work sick amid surge in omicron variants

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – A Texas State University professor is studying the impact of people reporting to work when they are sick.

As the omicron variant increases and after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced guidelines on how long someone should quarantine, she said there was growing pressure to work sick. It’s called presenteeism.

“Presenteeism is working while sick or with a medical condition, and what my research examines, both pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, and how workers make choices that are constrained by policies and organizational practices about whether or not they can stay home if they are sick or feel compelled to go to work while sick.

Dr. Elizabeth K. Eger, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, said the term is important to say and make known more widely.

“Having a language for something helps us to be able to talk about it,” she explained.

Eger and his team compare data collected from 129 people before the pandemic and 100 during the pandemic last spring.

“Before the pandemic, many people would go to work while sick – even sometimes using it as a sort of badge of honor. During the pandemic, we saw changes where there were new policies that people could have paid time off, and there was federal funding available for businesses. More people felt encouraged to take sick leave,” Eger said.

But now that many federal COVID-19 relief programs have ended, some don’t have access to paid sick leave and can’t afford to miss work. Eger said people are again feeling the pressure to show up for work even when they are sick.

“I think right now what we’re seeing is a huge increase, not just of the virus, but also of the structural issues with the virus. We are running out of tests,” she said. “They have to go to work while they are sick. We can start having conversations in our organizations that this is an unhealthy practice. This is something that can put our employees at risk; this can put our customers at risk.

The study is in its analysis phase. Eger said they are working on publishing their study, with all of its results organized. Learn more about studying online here.

Previous Texas state senator visits Abilene to support ordinance declaring city a 'sanctuary city for unborn children'
Next Where is Jason Landry? Search continues for missing Texas state student