COVID-19 should change work culture

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Life has inarguably changed in the past year and a half as the world grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, the possibility of becoming sick remains a constant reality as the Delta variant continues to spread. Now, as we resume in-person classes, activities and events, illness threatens to interfere to a greater extent with our ability to complete our daily activities. As we move forward as a society and attempt to return to a quasi-normal life, we must learn to become more understanding of illness as a reason for absence and become more adaptable to other people’s health needs.

In a 2019 study reported by Robert Half, a survey of 2,800 workers across 28 U.S. cities indicated that 33% of those surveyed would always go to work when feeling ill and 57% would sometimes go to work when feeling ill. These numbers indicate what many of us feel as students and workers in the U.S.; before the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us would continue with our daily obligations regardless of sickness. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, we must learn to prioritize the wellness of ourselves and others over other obligations.

In the intense work culture of the U.S., absences do not seem acceptable. Missing classes and other activities can impact grades and cause anxiety, which can lead people to attend events, classes and activities regardless of illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 should stay home, rest, focus on feeling better and seek medical attention if necessary. In light of the pandemic, we need to align our personal approaches with the CDC guidance for those who are ill by communicating that we understand sickness is out of one’s own control, that we prioritize health and that we will be flexible and find alternate pathways to help those facing illness to fulfill obligations while emphasizing their own health.

Even though we are slowly returning to normal activities, COVID-19 has pointed out that our approach to sickness and health in school and work environments must change. We must develop a more understanding culture on campus regarding illness as we move forward. Students should not feel they need to sacrifice their own body’s health to turn in a paper, listen to a lecture or attend a class or meeting. We must realize that our health is a priority, even if that means taking some time off to feel better before returning to our usual obligations.

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