One upshot to the pandemic? People in the PNW are more comfortable taking a sick day – at least according to this poll from our friends at PEMCO, which also explores different age demographics’  views on guilt related to calling out sick, and whether they’ve felt pressured by their employer to work while sick.

Let’s face it: we’ve all sat next to a sniffling colleague who likely should have stayed home to rest rather than bringing their germs to work. While remote work, COVID-19 and public health guidelines have certainly impacted the annual cold and flu season, the stigma of taking a sick day seems to be shifting, as well. According to PEMCO Insurance’s latest poll, two out of three Northwest residents say they feel more comfortable calling in sick to work now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PEMCO poll found that 65% of residents in Seattle and 63% of Portland residents say that compared to pre-pandemic times, they’re at least somewhat or much more likely to use their sick days now when they’re feeling under the weather or their child is home sick.

In addition, three-quarters (76%) of residents say that because of the pandemic, they’ll make more of an effort to stay away from other people who are sick. Similarly, residents also are more willing now to keep themselves at home if they are sick as to not spread germs to others – 64% of those who are employed in both Seattle and Portland say they’ll stay home when sick to stop the spread of any germs.

But any guilt associated with missing work to cash in a sick day seems to have been a generational dilemma. The poll found that more than half (55%) of younger respondents under 55 years old said they sometimes or often felt pressured by their employer to show up at work even if they were feeling sick. On the flip side, older employees 55 and over were significantly less likely to say they ever felt pressured to work while sick – just 28% said they sometimes or often felt pressured to come to work when feeling ill.

“While it’s interesting to see how age has impacted people’s perceptions about calling in sick, the pandemic has no doubt reinforced the importance of preventing the spread of germs for everyone. These days, it’s not exactly in style to cough and sneeze around others if you can help it,” said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing.

That’s welcome news for those anticipating a more severe cold and flu season in 2021, compared to last year. Today, nearly three-quarters of Seattleites and Portlanders say that they predict more folks will have colds or the flu this year compared to the last season during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whether it’s the lack of stay-at-home orders this year, less masking now that many residents have been vaccinated or people simply wanting to socialize again, it’s interesting to see that most residents agree with physicians that the common cold and seasonal flu will spread throughout our communities more than this time last year,” said Wing. “With my kids back to in-person school, my family’s already seen sniffles and sneezes reappearing at school and our home.”

This year, residents aren’t only more willing to take sick days, but they’re also willing to take additional measures to keep their immune systems strong and ready to fight viruses than before the pandemic. In fact, about two-thirds of residents say they’ll wash their hands frequently, 54% said they’ll wear a face covering and 53% say they’ll sanitize surfaces more often.

For a complete summary of PEMCO’s proprietary poll results visit, where you’ll find responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in August 2021.

Source: Pemco’s blog