IT’S ABOUT TIME – OFFICE CULTURE

It seems that the bluntness of millennials in the office setting might finally be paying off – a recent WSJ article chronicles the tendency of young office workers, often housed in the open settings of cubicles, to call out fellow-workers who are sick and persistent in their sneezing and coughing.  When a 26-year old heard a colleague sneeze several times in succession, she called his name and asked, “Is that allergies?”  The offender admitted that it wasn’t so she plied him with cold prevention remedies and insisted that he return home.

This is an idea and an action whose time has definitely come – for far too long, earlier generations have been passive in the face of illness – calling out “God Bless You” when someone sneezes on them.  Blessing someone who is spreading germs has always seemed totally bizarre to me. We should be doing what the millennial woman did and sending them home to sneeze in their own private space, not go about spreading their germs.  I’ve long been on a one-person mission against the practice of willfully spreading germs – in the workplace as well as in other public places.  A few years ago, the recommendation of covering the mouth with the sleeve of one’s shirt, when coughing, came into practice.  The only problem is that, to date, it’s been just a suggestion – no public pressure has been brought to ensure that that is done.  But the new movement seems like it might be different – there is some concern that something like a “public shaming” movement should be instituted to insist that sick people either stay home in the first place, or go home if they’ve come to work and show obvious signs of illness.  The person who was called out for his sneezing says that he “just had a cold”(as though that is a noninfectious circumstance) and felt that he was at the point where he wasn’t infecting others.  Trust me – any time someone with an illness is spewing saliva into the air around them – by sneezing or coughing – they are in the process of potentially infecting others. I’ve had people tell me, when I complained about their coughing and insisted that they not occupy a confined space with me and others around them, that “it’s just bronchitis.”  Really – good heavens – sometimes people are totally clueless – bronchitis is a vicious disease that takes a long time to be rid of and it certainly can be transmitted by coughing in a confined space.  Perhaps the medical profession has benefitted in years past by keeping silent about the hazards of coughing and sneezing in public venues, by being able to treat those who have been sickened by the process.  But, it’s time that we all start to speak up – medical practitioners included – and insist that sick people stay at home  or, at least, are attending to the responsible management of their germs by either wearing a face mask or by carrying a large, cotton handkerchief to cough or sneeze into – and, yes, I do mean every time that they expel saliva into the air.  ALL THE MOVING PARTS – employees are one of the five essential elements.   So it’s best to take all necessary precautions to ensure their healthfulness.

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