Punching in Sick

You know the feeling -- your throat is scratchy, your cough persistent and your boss a stickler for attendance. Or a deadline looms as your stomach churns.

So you pack up the cough drops or Pepto-Bismol and head to the office.

And you work at half speed and hope your co-workers don't catch what ails you. HR folks call this growing reality "presenteeism" -- as in the opposite of absenteeism.

Nearly half of employers surveyed by CCH Inc. reported the sick-but-working phenomenon in their organizations, up significantly from last year. The Harris Interactive poll contacted 323 human resources execs, and six in 10 of them said they send workers home and more than one-third try to create a culture that discourages sickies from showing up.

Ryan McGovern, manager of the Olsson's bookstore in Dupont Circle, said he and his staff of 12 full- and part-timers often "work sick," especially during the busy holiday season. Still, he knows some workers need R&R when the flu strikes hard.

"Sometimes we're not beneficial to ourselves or the store" he said, and then staff should stay home, rest and read a good book.

-- Vickie Elmer