Tilt your head down too and with further practice you can learn to open your throat in order to minimize air velocity.
 Source: me, a former obnoxiously loud sneezer that always dismissed it as an unavoidable and comical physiological quirk because I am too big and manly to sneeze quietly. It isn't, it wasn't, and I'm not.
edit: added a step.
Cover your sneeze. Cover your cough. Stay home when sick. These are kindergarten-level cultural learnings.
The dilemma between
- your livelihood & potential (costly) treatment
- absence without sick pay
goes beyond kindergarten-level because kindergarteners really don't have much to lose.
Staying at home when you are sick, from the employer's perspective, should be vastly preferable. Even if the employer were totally heartless about people's health and only cared about money, it's a risk avoidance strategy that pays for itself many times over by reducing the chance the business collapses. They lose a negligible amount of productivity to reduce the risk they lose a significant amount of productivity. And yet, there are many employers who will hold you in contempt for asking they institute sick leave -- even if it's the only reasonable way to deal with the reality that people transfer sickness but also need to eat.
Sick people act rationally when looking out for their own livelihood's continued existence. I agree it's definitely good to hope to gain recognition for your displays of respect towards your employer/coworkers. But if your employer/coworkers do not respect that you have jeopardized your livelihood for their benefit, the continued and self-inflicted cost is pretty much a total refutation of "good breeding", cultural learnings, or understanding what manners are for.
And then, beyond the 1st-order consequences, there are 2nd-order (immunity/interpersonal/office politics) consequences of the decision to prevent people from coming into contact with all pathogens, if the primary aim is only to reduce the risk of extremely harmful pathogens (but those aren't particularly relevant to the discussion of individual decision-making).
A friend/colleague of mine is suffering from Chronic sinusitis and she usually sneezes every morning for around 20-30 times (random number, I know!) over period of few hours. The 'sneezing fit' is 100% of the time non-contagious yet loud and 'full with watery substance', She covers her sneezing most of the time however it is not always possible to react in time.
Also, she's a single working mother raising two well mannered and cute children. Would you expect her to always stay home when she's always 'sick'?
These kindergarten-level cultural learnings you are talking about are societal pressure, we inhale pollutants, pollens and smoke from cigarettes all the time!
And want folks to stay home? How the heck are they supposed to afford it when they can be contagious for 2 weeks? Heck, folks are contagious before their symptoms even start. How can one allow for that?  Most jobs aren't going to allow for that sort of time off, nor are schools. Most that do will require a doctor's note - and it hardly seems reasonable to go to a doctor for a simple cold virus.
They aren't saying don't sneeze, they're saying cover your sneeze. It doesn't matter why you are sneezing, covering it is the standard.
Not everything is about sexual identity. This SJW nonsense has gone over the top. Please don't try to convince me we need a non-binary-trans-sneeze policy because of white cis privilege because you'd be wasting your time. If so, we have reached cultural peak absurdity.
I have no idea why it had that effect for me, and everyone is different, but if she's suffering enough that she's at the point where she'll try anything you might pass along my anecdote. I wish I had chanced into it earlier.
For years, my dad had 4 days off a year. That was both vacation and sick time. Any other time missed was time he wasn't getting paid for.
People who read HN probably don't know what that's like for the most part, especially if you offer opinions like yours. You might have learned that in kindergarten but sometimes you gotta eat, too. Especially when others are depending on you.
Genuine sickness yes, but a bit of a cold where half of the office can manage to soldier on? I reckon I ought to get some sort of bonus for the fact I stay in shape, eat well and haven't had a sick day in a few years.
Some people can't even avoid it because of their work, doctors receptionists for example.
Yes, fine, but none of these involve suppressing a sneeze. The goalpost has shifted.
Face masks FTW! Then you can creep out anybody.
When I visit other countries it feels weird that nobody says anything when people sneeze. But I realize that's a cultural thing and try to avoid saying "Bless you".
In east Asia it's customary for sick people to wear masks to avoid spreading disease via coughing or sneezing. A practice that ought to be adopted everywhere.
I know I'm promoting a passive-aggressive strategy which is also social corrosive, but it's a way of spreading (!) the meme. And don't say "Gesundheit" because you think "bless you" is religious -- saying Gesundheit is simply non-denominationally superstitious.
Toughen up people!
We don't eat food off the floor because it would probably give us a bad stomach. Eating "hygienically" is a practice that we have adopted.
Dogs eat stuff off the floor all the time. Have they evolved a more advanced immune system than ours? Or just kept it well trained?
As for their immune system, inbreeding of dogs has caused all sorts of susceptibilities, though overall humans are a better vector for disease (density, widespread distribution, gregariousness, etc). Also humans worry about disease symptoms that dogs and other animals stoically ignore and thus the disease can go unnoticed by the human. (e.g. a bit of diarrhoea dribbling uncontrollably out your backside will probably concern you but a dog will just put up with it -- though an owner will likely object!) .
It's a tradition, not a superstition.
correct answer to that is "not in your lifetime" (from the joke about a very old very rich grandpa who sneezes and his relatives :)
I've had the occasional "where the hell did that come from?" sneeze, but they're a rare exception, maybe a few times a year. I cannot fathom not being able to control something like a sneeze; to me, it would feel like not being able to control farting, coughing or talking.
Did you know? Plenty of people cannot control these actions 100%. Please don't assume others are like you.
I know there are medical conditions that prevent you from controlling all three - I've had coughs bad enough that I couldn't help it, and there are definitely bowel conditions that mean your sphincter isn't 100% reliable, and there is Tourette's and assorted mental conditions that basically make it difficult to impossible to control your speech.
Sneezes were evolved before the invention of the handkerchief and tissue.
Since my sneezing is super loud I am looking forward to trying this technique soon! Thanks for sharing
Of course, I am afraid of what this does to my blood pressure, and whenever I do it, I start thinking that one day I'm going to burst a blood vessel while sneezing like that.
Comes in handy if you have a photic sneeze reflex, though.
But I prevent sneezes by controlled in-out breathing and gently pinching/rubbing my nose.
The article didn't say much about the results, other than:
> We’ve learned, for one thing, that conflict, even in the best of teams, is going to arise
I immediately though of my experience with open office plans.
1 Person Office: 1 (They didn't report a range here)
2 Person Office: 1.13-1.98 sick days
3-6 Person Office: 1.08-1.73 sick days (LOWER than 2)
6+ Person Office: 1.30-2.02 sick days
Great item to study further. This isn't scientific proof of anything. As a solo worker you may come in to the office when sick as well since you don't have to worry about getting anyone else sick and so many other variables they didn't control for make this interesting but far from proof.
Direct PDF link to full study: http://www.sjweh.fi/download.php?abstract_id=3167&file_nro=1
1 person: heavy smokers 15%, drinkers 16%
3-6 pers: heavy smokers 13%, drinkers 16%, sick leave +36%
2 pers: heavy smokers 10%, drinkers 15%, sick leave +50%
> 6 pers: heavy smokers 9%, drinkers 13%, sick leave +62%
Please drink and smoke more to fight sickness.
There isn't any rational reason for knowledge workers to go to an office every day. Socializing and building a cult around a company might be the only reasons. But IDK if these are enough to justify an office.
There must be another solution we aren't aware of yet.
I'm not sure what it is (lack of body language? Lack of shared physical presence and tools?) or if it can be remedied by better technical solutions (it's possible), but it's the reality right now.
I think the difference is that once you got attached to some people from your work that the motivation to see and talk to them is one key driver to work for the company every day. This attachemnt might develop faster in an office environment.
The most powerful tool for collaboration and communication though is screen-sharing + your mouse cursor + your voice available in any video calling software.
Co-working spaces have actually been rather successful in outsourcing these factors - both the cultism and the necessity for human interaction. Not every company needs its own brand of Kool-aid, especially when the cultural attraction of many tech companies is indistinguishable from the industry as a whole. It may be beneficial to have core values that are shared among a cluster of companies, and reap some advantages of scale that brings with it.
What might also increase days that people are not there: at least in our office we actively encourage people not to come back from sickness soon. We urge them to stay at home to avoid spreading disease further. While I personally might come back to a single office after 2-3 days, as I can't that easily infect other people in my private office, I stay away for a week more often now.
Getting people to stay home when they are sick has been harder to implement than you'd think. I've tried with my work team. A number of the developers are from cultures that have what I would call a very stubborn "must work at all costs" mentality. It can take some persuasion (berating?) to get some of them to see that taking a sick day doesn't make them a "bad worker," but showing up sick, getting other people sick, and pushing buggy code because they're sick does.
It may well be that they don't want to cut their July vacation short by a day because they caught a cold in January. And to compound the issue, it was probably a cold they caught at work, because the company leave policy reinforces the behavior. People who stay home when sick are punished with shorter vacations.
I would not want to be in a situation where my vacation time depended on some prevailing sense among coworkers of the appropriate number of days to take off.
It's been the case at the last four places I worked: large corporations who knew their H1B workforce wouldn't ask for time off, and startups where I wouldn't get any spare moments to meet with my managers to ask for vacation.
(Fwiw, the vacation time at the start ups was perfectly decent, given the situation. I think I took ~3 weeks off each year. At the big company, it was a total fiddle.)
In this particular case though, possibly just how lucky I am to live in Australia. Here it's either just common practice at most companies, or possibly required by law, but everywhere I've seen the leave policies provides 52 weeks a year of sick/carers leave.
Usually this is broken up into ~20 days of leave where one isn't really required to provide any justification beyond "I felt bad that day" and beyond that a doctors certificate may be required.
But that's always entirely separate to annual leave.
Very, very tiny consolation. I'd live with a dog-sized spider if it would mean that corporate management wasn't filled with cold-blooded monsters.
I read this and go '52 weeks a year for sick leave? Aren't there 52 weeks in a year total?'
Some uptight employers require a doctor's note but most just roll with it.
That always stuck me as a profoundly civilized attitude.
I've been contracting for the last 13 years. I've had a few occasions where I feel I "worked through" a period of illness too enthusiastically and ended up making myself feel worse and lengthening the illness. Knowing that you need to bill, and therefore need to work, is tough to balance against stopping work to get better. It's been a tough lesson for me, but I try very hard to slow down or even stop work when I'm sick.
On the last occasion I really tried to "power through" an illness (with a persistent bad cough and even more persistent sore throat) I started thinking about Jim Henson's death. That made me slow down. Nothing is worth that.
That the situation one of my college buddies (and all his fellow contractors) endured for a couple years. They did everything the normal workers did, but since they were technically "contractors" in title, everyone treated them like second-class citizens. (Caveat: Major japanese company--but still in the USA.)
If that's not the case with yours, I'm glad they're not in the same situation. My friend eventually moved up to one of the top contracters and still couldn't get into the company proper so he had to seek employment elsewhere.
But they're not reporting on the absence of sickness, but rather absence due to sickness, which they found occurred at a higher rate in open offices.
Judging by the names of the authors, I'm guessing they're mostly Danish, or at least Scandinavian. As a native speaker of another Scandinavian language (Swedish), I understood the title as it was intended, but I'm not sure if the phrase "sickness absence" is the best way of expressing "absence due to sickness" to a native English speaker.
So rather than piss away PTO, I dose up on drugs and drag my ass to the office. If I had dedicated sick leave, I'd just take the day off. But this miserly PTO policy results in me hoarding it.
Now you must spend your own time recovering from illness that your employer was the primary cause of. That's brilliant right there. U-freakin-S-A.
But a non-trivial number of people have historically abused dedicated sick time; there are even people cheerfully admitting to it on this thread.
Now if I only had 15 days PTO....
Compounding this is the fact that I can only carry over 5 days per year, so at most I can only use 20 days in a calendar year). In a few years my PTO gets a bump to 20 days a year.
"Sorry, I'm out of sick days - but as long as I'm here, let's have that lengthy meeting about X. Here, I even brought you a cup of coffee!"
In a few years, the contract will be rebid and I'll roll the dice with my next employer. I rarely get sick, so it's not that big of a deal, but I was highlighting how poor policy can induce sub-optimal choices by the employee.
Usually, the combination results in fewer days of available leave, and since vacations are often planned months in advance, people are forced to come in to the office while sick or spoil their entire vacation by screwing up the itinerary.
It's pretty much inevitable that pooling sick time and vacation time results in a lower total. People aren't really expected to use all their sick time in a given year if ever. But for those who do plan to maximize their use of vacation, it means there's not a lot of margin when they do get sick and it encourages behaviors that aren't good for anyone.
When you are in a more crowded office this mechanism doesn't kick in because, frankly, you likely hate them at least a bit, and that would explain the lower %.
Finally when packed in a chicken farm scenario, all these mechanisms go out of the window and the sheer amount of germs, noise, distraction and stress you're exposed to trumps every other factor, hence the highest reported (62%) value.
Yeah, I too think this could explain it better. Say a work day is 8 hours, ideally, you cannot work on the same thing for 8 hours. But an open-plan office forces you to do this, or pretend to, because you are being "watched"...and this can be exhausting.
A cellular office plan, gives you the privacy to relax, and maybe do something else, then say when you feel refreshed, you get back to working.
An open-office plan encourages collaboration, but that's based on the assumption that we all work the same way.
They always say that but from my observation this is simply not true.
It's cheaper, and more of a panopticon for the floor-walky managers. It encourages the creation of a projected isolation shell, like some kind of psychic box turtle. Noise-cancelling headphones are essential to that effort.
When I actually collaborate, I am far more likely to do it if I can do it privately with a specific person, rather than with everyone who may be listening.
"Sick leaves were self-reported ... as number of short and long (medically certified) sick leaves... A significant excess risk for sickness absence was found only in terms of short sick leaves." Which supports your hypothesis.
That's not an either-or question. It could very plausibly be both. More people in a room means more potential for infections.
Since there are maybe a fixed 230 working days in a year, a thing that takes me from 10 absences to 12 absences is worse for me than a thing that takes me from 1 absence to 2 absences. I'd rather not compare the two as 20% up vs 100% up.
If anyone else felt the same, my comment would help.
You can't draw any conclusions from simply comparing the medians. On one hand that completely ignores any confounding variables which could lead to either over- or underestimation of the true difference. And on the other hand the medians may not be particularly meaningful. For example, if the effect only occurred in the top 25%ile of employees, the median would stay the same even if all of the ones in open plan offices were sick for the entire year.
If you took the mean instead of the median the difference would already be 8.1 - 4.9 = 3.2 days.
I'm comfortable with the two measures as a better summary of the results than the RR in the abstract.
That's anecdotes for ya.
(Worked in a cubicle farm, 4 person office, 3 person office, 2 person, then my own office, now at home in my own office).
Top choice is work at home. Then own office. Then 2 person office. Once it gets to 3 person office, I'd pick a cubicle with high sound insulated walls.
Open office would be a nightmare for me. I'd get set just from stress of not being able concentrate and get my work done.
sick days are just a way to cope with that and get away from those people. especially with engineers. or take some time at home to do things online like buying tickets for a concert that you don't want to talk about in the office. its stressful to be watched every second. sick days and "have a cold, will work from home" are just a way to escape. doubt anyone was really sick.
One: the same reason as experienced by garbage men or sewer guys; greater exposure causing improved immune systems.
Two: being in an open office increases the top-down butts-in-seat observability, causing employees to come into the office even while sick to keep up a better work image.
Three: (what happens at my work) perhaps the work places that can support an open office can also support working from home and so instead of sick days being days off, employees just work from home with minor ailments, reducing the number of reported sick days. At least for me, if I have a slight cold, I'm still up for a mostly productive day, but I don't want to spread a cold to others in the office. So I work from home.
I clearly read it backwards and thought it was an odd result so I jotted down a few reasons why I thought the strange result could occur.
More obviously, if you are closer to other sick people, your odds of getting sick are higher.
I call B.S.
1. "associated" means nothing. "Anything" can be "associated" with "anything else". "significantly related" is almost as worthless. Correlation is better than association. Causation is better than correlation. Where's any of that? This is just a hypothesis, not a conclusion.
2. I've been working in corporate offices for 38 years in every possible environment imaginable: private office, war room, open office, basement, hallway, double office, even a closet. One place someone came in and yelled, "Get out of here now! There's mold everywhere!" Sure enough, hazmat had to clean the office.
3. I have NEVER missed a day of work. EVER. Some people say I'm lucky. That's probably a little bit true. But not really. Read on...
4. Here's a list of things that I believe (without any supporting data or government research) have "significantly more impact" on sickness absence that open-plan offices: diet, lifestyle, movement of any kind, drug use, tobacco, alcohol, stress from work, stress from non-work, medical history, genetics, donut consumption.
5. I loathe open offices for many reasons (mainly because those deciding these things have no idea how to achieve, but that's another rant). But cut me a break, blaming open offices for sickness absence is really a reach. Without proper controls, the statistical evidence presented by OP can be caused by many other co-factors. (See #4 above.)
6. Never get health info from the internet.
Open offices cause me significant amounts of stress (for varous reasons), so... does that means that open offices are in your list, under the “stress from work” category?