Martin Schittig

Persönliche Probleme gehören nicht ins Büro. Oder?

"How are you?" "Good, thank you! And you?" may seem banal, but it's a phrase that is uttered day after day without much reflection. No one expects an honest answer, at least not in a business environment. Saying, "I'm not doing well at the moment. I have knee pain, and my thoughts are with my sick daughter at home," is not exactly what is expected.

The "Thank you, I'm good" also reaffirms every day that in the workplace, performance is expected regardless of how one feels. Personal matters often have no place in the job. For a long time, I didn't question it. After all, everyone does it that way. Until one day, I learned that a former long-time employee suffers from a chronic illness that significantly affects their way of working. They never communicated it. And since then, I've been asking myself: What kind of work environment do we live in where such things cannot be discussed?

I can only speculate about the reasons, but it has occupied my mind for a long time. I needed clarity and answers. A survey was necessary. And the results are as expected. But see for yourself:


How important is your health to you?

  • 72% It's important to me, but I could do more to take care of myself.
  • 28% Very important - I prioritize enough sleep, healthy eating, and do a lot to ensure I am healthy.
  • 0% Not very important.

Have you ever gone to work while you were sick?

  • 63% Yes, but rarely.
  • 37% Yes, I do it more often.
  • 0% No.

Is it normal to go to work when you're sick?

So, almost 40% regularly go to work even when they are sick, and the rest do it occasionally. Of course, my small survey is by no means representative (there were 43 responses), but it paints a picture from my surroundings. The reasons given for this behavior vary greatly. What is repeatedly mentioned is loyalty towards colleagues. Many responses also show uncertainty about when they are "sick enough" to take time off. Even remote work seems to encourage working while sick because "you're not infecting anyone."

How do we transition from a work environment of uncertainty, constantly weighing what is right and wrong, to a culture that exudes reliability and clarity?

How are you able to work?

It's actually quite simple: To create such a work environment, we take into account the individual needs and preferences of our employees. This includes respecting different circadian rhythms, physical or mental limitations, family obligations, and personal preferences. Naturally, this requires openness from all parties involved. But experience has shown us that it pays off because there is no one "right" way to work.

Early riser or stargazer?

An example of addressing individual needs is the implementation of flexible working hours. Our employees have the freedom to determine their own work hours, with regular team meetings providing only a rough framework. This allows them to leverage their most productive hours and better align their work with their individual circadian rhythms.

For instance, employees who are productive early in the morning can make the most of their time, while others who consider themselves night owls can fully utilize their potential. At the same time, this ensures smooth workflow and communication within the team. Especially during stressful periods, self-determined organization brings more tranquility to the workday. The current project is not taken to bed, which many survey participants consider an important aspect of a healthy working relationship.

Special requests? No problem.

Another example is the creation of an inclusive work environment for employees with specific health requirements. Height-adjustable desks accommodate the needs of the employees. Furthermore, flexible working hours or the option of remote work enable effective completion of tasks even if they cannot (every day) come to the office due to a limitation. This ensures equal participation for everyone. Small changes or adjustments already make a big difference in that regard.

Less sickness through happy work!

Of course, there are still some who come to work sick in our workplace, but it has become less frequent. However, the overall number of sick days has not increased. Perhaps it is due to all the adjustments we have already made to create a work environment where employees can unleash their full potential without being exploited, stressed, or exhausted.

There are already many companies that think and act like us. I believe that a new generation is emerging in this regard. However, there is still a long way to go until this appreciative and healthy work culture becomes the norm. It is time to reconsider traditional work models and pave the way for an inclusive and flexible working world of the future!