Remote workers more stressed about taking a sick day now than before COVID

NEW YORK — Taking time off has been a somewhat treacherous endeavor for Americans for quite some time. In comparison to most developed nations, the United States’ paid sick leave policies leave a lot to be desired. Now, a new survey finds the switch to remote work in 2020 hasn’t made it any easier for many Americans to take a break. Out of 2,000 respondents, 42 percent say they feel more stressed and anxious about taking time off during the pandemic.

Besides stress, working Americans also say taking time off due to sickness now costs them more than before COVID-19. On average, respondents report just one sick day costs them $227 due to lost income and extra expenses. Some of the highest average costs associated with a sick day include visiting a doctor ($63), lost income ($60), estimated childcare costs ($53), and transportation ($51).

Commissioned by MDLIVE, the survey also reports 45 percent of remote workers believe taking a sick day right now will cost them more than it would have in 2019.

Despite the observation that most Americans feel as though they can’t afford to take time off right now, the research suggests many workers need a vacation now more than ever. Over half the poll (55%) say they were much more likely to take a day off in 2020 due to mental health concerns than ever before.

“The sick day experience has changed drastically over the past year, so we undertook this research to gain a better understanding of what stressors people deal with when being sick and having to take a sick day, and how we can help alleviate that stress,” says Dr. Cynthia Zelis, chief medical officer of MDLIVE, in a statement.

Some feel guilty about taking a sick day, missing work

When asked about usual “sick day stressors,” many responded that they stress out about visiting a doctor’s office during a pandemic (23%). Others listed stress related to not being able to helping their kids with schoolwork (21%) and stress over loss of income (16%).

Generally, the research suggests employees who work from home encounter more sick day stressors than employees reporting to an office.

Over 50 percent of respondents who work entirely from home say they feel more stressed about taking time off than ever before. Just over one-third of office workers say the same. Meanwhile, 45 percent of remote workers feel guilty about taking a sick day because they already work from home.

The survey also finds men may be feeling more sick day stress than women. Close to 45 percent of men in the poll say they felt stressed about sick days in 2020. In comparison, only 39 percent of women shared the same sentiment. Similarly, 59 percent of men and 51 percent of women were more likely to take time off due to stress or anxiety in 2020 than in pervious years.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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