The Japanese work environment might qualify as a something of a business paradise because Japanese workers so rarely take a day off. They are instead known to put in tons of free overtime and often don’t use “sick leave“. There is even a word in Japanese for “death from overwork”: karoshi.
Despite the health risks, many won’t take the day off if they are feeling a little under the weather. But what do Japanese people consider “a little sick” and “really sick”? A survey was conducted aiming to answer that question. Do their answers line up with your own, or would you file them away under “only in Japan”?
When you’re feeling ill, it seems like a smart move to call in sick. After all, you should probably stay home and not risk spreading your illness to the rest of your office or the people with whom you’ll be packed into a rush-hour train. Maybe you don’t get paid sick leave, but taking the day off to make sure you are ready to go get ’em the next day seems more efficient in the long run.
According to a survey though, almost 30% of respondents would still go to work with a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F). Doctors consider that body temperature to mean that you’re running a fever, and recommend getting some rest to allow your body to recover. But in Japan, it seems, the good of the company trumps the good of one’s own health in many cases.
The survey asked 226 men and women between the ages of 20-39 a few different questions about how often they get sick and how it affects their work. For example, one question asked, “If you were running a fever, at what temperature would you take the day off?”
▼There were also 8.4% of respondents who would take the day off for other reasons even without a fever.
Respondents were also asked what reasons they cited for taking the day off. Painful headaches certainly led the way, with 51.3% of the people citing it as the main cause for eating into their holiday time.
The interesting category here is the number of people who said a runny nose would cause them to take the day off. From our experience, people in Japan just stuff tissues up their nose, ignore the embarrassment, and keep on working. Also, blowing your nose with people around is seen as rude.
You might wonder why so many people decide to tough it out and stay at work. Perhaps it’s because many Japanese people wear a “face mask of invincibility” when they are sick (and even when they aren’t in some cases!), and are lulled into a false sense of security that the infection won’t spread.
▼Now this keyboard can’t catch a cold!
Image: Flickr (Tatsuo Yamashita)
Some Japanese net users were slightly irked by the idea of taking a day off with only a 38°C fever.
“More than 40°C (104°F) and I’ll take the day off”
“Having a fever has nothing to do with it, I decide based upon whether or not my head and my body can work.”
“Normal salarymen won’t take the day off with even a 40°C fever. Those that immediately do so are communists.”
In no way does this survey completely represent the entire Japanese work force, but at least it gives us a small view of how some people treat their health versus their job.
At what point would you call in sick? As always, let us know in the comments below.
▼Can just as easily eat this bento in bed while sick.
Image: Flickr (Sakurako Kitsa)