Are offices making us more sick? © Getty Images

Are offices making us more sick?

Presenteeism doesn’t count as being sick if you’re not going to stay at home, you know…

Asked by: Samantha Morris, London


It’s hard to be sure. Several studies have found that workers in open-plan offices take more sick days than those who work in small groups or have their own private office. But this is mostly short absences of just one or two days. If cold viruses were spreading more effectively in offices, you would also expect the spread of flu as well, which would knock you out for at least a week.

So maybe open-plan offices are just more stressful and unpleasant to work in, and their employees are more inclined to ‘pull a sickie’. Or it may be that open-plan employees are less likely to be missed. A 2005 study found that ‘presenteeism’ (where employees come to work, even when they are sick) is more common in small offices.


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