Majority of Germans 'go to work when unwell'

The Local Germany
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Majority of Germans 'go to work when unwell'
A woman blows her nose at her desk in the office. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

The majority of working people in Germany go to work despite being ill, a new survey has found. Around one in 10 workers with Covid still show up at the office or continue to work from home.


The survey by health insurer Pronova BKK found that only 28 percent of Germans consistently stay at home when they are unwell.


According to the study, the most frequent health issue with which employees still go to work is back pain (49 percent), while 38 percent work despite allergy flare-ups. A third of employees with psychosomatic or psychological health issues also continue to go to work, while 20 percent go to work with contagious infections such as colds. 

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

In the case of Covid infections, nine percent of sufferers show up at work, with 17 percent working from home, and another 17 percent staying home for a few days until the worst symptoms have passed, according to the survey. Eight percent of sufferers base their decision to return to work on how busy work is. Only 33 percent of those surveyed stay home until they are well if they have a mild Covid infection.

Gerd Herold, consulting physician at Pronova BKK, told Funke Mediengruppe that workers who go to the office despite testing positive for Covid present "an unreasonable risk," both to themselves and other employees.

"Those who don't take their time to heal risk viral illnesses also attacking the heart or other organs, or worsening symptoms suppressed by medication," said Gerd Herold.

It seems that the experience with infection control during the Covid pandemic hasn't changed the habit of showing up at work even when sick, Herold said. "Some people are worried about being seen as lazy or about colleagues having to substitute," he said.

READ ALSO: What should I do if I get Covid in Germany?

The compulsion to go to work despite being unwell is referred to in occupational science as "presenteeism", or "compulsive attendance", and the reasons for this can vary greatly. 

Stefan Röpke, medical director at the psychotherapeutic specialist clinic group Oberberg Berlin-Brandenburg said: "There are people who go to work despite illness simply because they enjoy their job and like to put their energy into their work. But anxiety, a sense of duty or a lack of self-esteem can also be reasons for being present at work despite illness."


Employed - berufstätig

Infection protection - (der) Infektionsschutz

Presenteeism - (der) Präsentismus 

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