The option to work remotely can help employees get through flu season, but employers also need to ensure no one pushes themselves to work while sick, says Janet Candido, founder and principal at Candido Consulting Group.

With more employees returning to the office, she says it’s crucial to encourage workers to take sick days because when somebody who’s contagious comes into the office, they can easily spread those germs to other employees.

“People didn’t like catching an illness before, but they really don’t like it now. The coronavirus pandemic has affected this perception because people are definitely more concerned. Now if you sneeze in public, everybody turns to look at you. So people are a lot more tense [because of the possible risks].”

Read: How hybrid workplaces and employees can navigate flu season

Some employers are likely concerned employees may take advantage of the option to work remotely while sick, says Candido, noting she believes the benefits of encouraging people to work from home outweigh the negative consequences of someone taking advantage of it.

Remote work also allows for some flexibility when employees are sick since it’s easier for them to focus on their well-being at home, she adds. “It’s not enough to tell employees, ‘If you’re sick, stay home and work remotely.’ I think it should be added that, when employees are really sick, they need to focus on taking care of themselves. Don’t push it, don’t be a martyr. It shouldn’t be about forcing employees to work remotely while they’re ill, but more about allowing them to get well [so they can work at their best].”

Given that companies are still experiencing serious labour shortages, Candido thinks employers would be hesitant to put any vaccine mandates in place this flu season when their priority is to recruit or retain talent.

In addition, when it comes to taking sick days, she says employers must lead by example. “Don’t tell employees to work from home when they’re sick while you’re coming into the office sniffling. Remind them to focus on their health and make sure people believe you when you say they should be staying home, not make them worry whether you still expect them to work. There are very few things that can’t wait a day or two.”

Read: Employees consider flexible hours, more sick days most important support tools: survey