Despite coronavirus warnings, 35% of workers have gone to work sick

Myranda Mondry | March 14, 2020

More than 1 in 3 American workers have gone to work sick since hearing about coronavirus, a new survey conducted March 6 by QuickBooks shows.*

Though companies across the country have instated temporary remote work policies, 67% of respondents say they cannot work from home in their current role. And 43% of them are trade workers or work in the service industry. For these workers, the coronavirus threatens both their health and their livelihood. 

Businesses are feeling the pinch from the spread of coronavirus. 19% of all respondents say the businesses they work at or run have gotten fewer customers because of the coronavirus outbreak. Another 17% say they’ve lost profits. And 9% say they’ve had to lay off employees due to the economic effects of the virus. 


Sick trade and service workers financially pressured to go to work

Over half of all trade and service workers surveyed say they receive sick time. But 35% say they’ve still gone to work sick—even since hearing about the outbreak of the coronavirus. When asked why, 56% simply said they needed the money. Other reasons for going to work sick included not having enough paid sick time, feeling pressure from management, or having an overwhelming workload. 1 in 2 trade and service workers who have called in sick since the outbreak says they feel guilty doing so. That’s even when they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Regardless, 28% of all trade and service workers surveyed say they have taken unpaid sick leave when they felt sick to avoid contaminating others. But if any of these employees were forced into a two-week quarantine, over half say they would be worried about their job security. They either don’t have enough sick time saved up or believe two weeks is too long not to work. And their worries aren’t entirely unfounded. 

“Most airlines have strict attendance policies for employees but are encouraging [employees] to stay home if they feel sick,” said a domestic flight attendant who operates in the Pacific Northwest and asked to remain anonymous. “It can jeopardize your job.” 


Business owners and workers take precautions

22% of employees and small business owners in the U.S. say they have canceled events due to coronavirus fears, the poll finds. Another 32% say they’ve restricted business travel. Meanwhile, 12% of employees say they’ve been granted the ability to work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

To combat the coronavirus, 63% of all respondents say they have posted signs about proper handwashing throughout the workplace. And it seems to be working. 

88% of survey respondents say they have washed their hands more thoroughly at work since the coronavirus outbreak. Another 76% say they’ve sanitized their workspace more often. And 82% say they’ve made more of an effort to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. 

Additionally, nearly 63% of respondents say they have taken paid or unpaid sick leave since hearing about the virus. And 23% have worked remotely to quarantine themselves and avoid contaminating their colleagues. 


*Methodology: QuickBooks commissioned Pollfish to survey 1,067 U.S. adult business owners and employees with internet access who were rewarded for their participation. The poll was conducted March 6, 2020, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. The margin of error is larger for subgroups.

QuickBooks welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original source is cited with attribution to “QuickBooks.

This content is for information purposes only and information provided should not be considered legal, accounting or tax advice or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc. does it have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided  should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc. cannot warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate, nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

A little about Myranda Mondry

Related posts

Katherine McBeth|March 26, 2020

Free webinar: Survival tips for small businesses during COVID-19

Editor’s note: Webinar registration has closed. Our small business panel shared creative tips for finding new revenue streams and[...]

Katherine McBeth|March 18, 2020

5 ways your local SBDC can help you start and run your business

Only about half of businesses will make it to their fifth year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 49.3% of businesses that[...]

Dorothy Chong|June 11, 2019

Wage theft and exploitation still plague employees in Europe

The EU’s latest time tracking ruling serves as an opportune reminder A recent survey by TSheets of more than 3,500 working adults in[...]