How To Deal With a Sick Coworker

male construction worker coughing

COVID has put many activities into a new perspective. What was once an annoyance (like, your next-door cubicle neighbor coughing) has been upgraded to a dire warning. The outbreak has changed the rules for dealing with a sick coworker.   

Once upon a time (like in 2019), showing up at work when you were sick didn’t constitute a big deal. In fact, companies often tacitly encouraged their employees to push through illness and stay productive. That willingness to ignore symptoms and to continue to work helped define a good employee.  

The spread of a deadly pandemic has changed that sort of behavior. Companies have become more aware of the dangers of spreading disease in the workplace. At the same time, firms have improved their remote-working and sick-leave policies, making it easier for workers to stay home when they fall ill.  

Still, some people haven’t gotten the proverbial memo. Even in the post-COVID world, the warrior-worker mentality will convince many of your coworkers to come to the office, despite obvious symptoms.  

What can you do about this? How should you respond to a coworker who shows up hacking and coughing? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:  

Talk to Your Coworker  

Your first step should be a conversation. Don’t accuse or judge. Simply approach your coworker privately and let them know your concerns.   

You may have nothing to worry about. Maybe they have allergies or have already tested negative for COVID. However, if they do pose a risk, try to convince them to go home voluntarily.  

(Politely) Keep Your Distance  

If your coworker insists on staying at work, do what’s necessary to protect yourself. Stay away from your potentially infected coworker. At the same time, step up your vigilance about mask-wearing and hand washing.  

For added protection, make sure your hand sanitizer stays handy and use it often. Keep your workplace as sanitized as possible.  

Talk to Your Supervisor or HR  

Sure, tattling is a hard decision. (Any third grader can tell you this.) But, if other options have failed, you might not have a choice. To fix the situation, you might need to get higher authorities involved.  

Let your supervisor or the human resources department know about your sick coworker. Your firm should have anonymous (or at least discrete) ways of reporting a possible COVID threat. They will likely insist that your colleague go home for the day and possibly get tested.   

Looking for Warehouse or General Labor Work? 

A good employer should have a clear policy to avoid the spread of disease. Finding these safety-conscious companies gets easier when you work with a strong staffing agency, like LaborMAX.  Contact LaborMAX Staffing today to find the perfect placement for your skills and background.