Sunday, 4 Jun 2023

Three-quarters of workers will still go into work even if they have a cold

More than four in ten office workers (43%) have branded a colleague as “selfish” – for coming into the office when suffering from a cold, a study has found.

Three-quarters of employees have felt obliged to still go into work when unwell – with 59% feeling the need to simply “power through” and carry on regardless.

One in three (34%) feel they simply have too much to do to call in sick, and 41% don't want to leave others in the lurch – while 18% don't trust others to cover their work for them.

And the poll, of 2,000 employed adults, found 29% work in a competitive job, and fear being seen as “unreliable” (42%) – with 31% wanting to prove their trustworthiness, and one in five (21%) wanting to show dedication.

But 57% would prefer their co-workers to stay at home if they are feeling ill – with almost half (48%) believing they have caught a cold from a colleague in the last 12 months.

The study, commissioned by cough brand Bronchostop, revealed some of the biggest annoyances when people come into the office unwell – including not covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing (46%), not washing their hands afterwards (36%), and not using tissues (35%).

Farah Ali, superintendent pharmacist and spokesman for Bronchostop, said: “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.”

The study also found that 38% of those with co-workers make a point of coming in just to show them and their boss that they are genuinely unwell.

However, half of adults (49%) working with colleagues wouldn't have any qualms telling a poorly co-worker they should have stayed at home.

But many of those polled don’t seem to apply the same level of understanding to themselves.

During the last 12 months, the average worker has been to work an average of four times with symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, headache, or sore throat.

The research, carried out through OnePoll, also found 24% of those who have had a cold have actively tried to keep their condition a secret – with 61% managing to convince themselves they are not really that ill.

Farah Ali added: “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.

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


  1. Coughing close to you
  2. When they don't cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing
  3. When they don't wash their hands after they've coughed or sneezed
  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


  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 years old)
  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

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