• How do you keep sick people away from your desk at work?

    Asked by BuckeyeShelby on Friday, November 16, 2012

    How do you keep sick people away from your desk at work?

    I am working through chemo. I have a coworker who is very young, very immature and very self-absorbed. She is sick as a dog and keeps showing up at my desk to XXX ibuprofen from me. Normally, I don't mind things like that. But she knows she's sick and she knows she shouldn't be anywhere near me. I tend to let people walk all over me, but I really don't want to end up in the hospital because of her carelessness. Or to have to bump out a chemo session because my white count has tanked. Any suggestions that won't get me fired?

    16 Answers from the Community

    16 answers
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      Be honest with her. Tell her exactly what you just told us. She probably doesn't realize what the risk is of getting you sick. If she needs medicine, give her the entire bottle so she doesn't come back for more.

      almost 4 years ago
    • GregA0406's Avatar

      If your employer has a sense of humor, you can get a roll of CAUTION tape from your building maintenance crew or at the local hardware store (?) Personally, I always have my hand sanitizer and wipes always at the ready. However, with some people you just need to be direct - as many times as it takes. Eventually most will "get it". And then, of course, there is the face mask..... You have to look out for number #1.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Harry's Avatar

      Land mines? Barbed wire? Machine gun nests? :-)

      Have you tried talking to a supervisor? Not so much as a complaint, but as a request for assistance. You are trying to keep working through this, but your immune system is weak and you can catch a cold or flu easily. You try to stay away from people who are sick. Maybe the supervisor can privately explain this to the coworker and request that they not approach you when they are already sick--and if they need ibuprofen they are sick.

      Another trick I have used when someone gets into the habit of borrowing from me rather than getting their own whatever, is to not have it. Simply be able to truthfully say that you can't help them. After they stop asking you can start carrying it with you again. Once, I loaned my daughter my personal HP calculator (which has Reverse Polish Notation) because a boy in her class always wanted to borrow hers. When he looked at it in puzzlement (no equal sign) she told him he had to speak to it in Polish--backwards!

      almost 4 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      I can sort of see both sides of this one. She is sick but showing up at work. You are sick but showing up at work. This issue isn't really being sick, it is being contagious. Technically everybody has germs so everybody is contagious, whether they are sick or not. So unless everybody where you work can do their jobs without ever going to each other's desks, then that kind of interaction is just a risk you take by working. On the other hand, if the only reason she comes to your desk is to ask for ibuprofen, buy her her own bottle and put it on her desk.

      almost 4 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      6 ft. x 12 ft. sheets of fly paper, a Supersoaker squirtgun, and a slingshot for ibuprofen delivery.

      almost 4 years ago
    • BuckeyeShelby's Avatar

      Y'all are making me laugh. I sorta like the idea of land mines. : ) I don't think it would bother me as much except she is SO "all about her". She doesn't think of what consequences any of her actions have, not just this. I've actually considered just handing her the bottle and telling her to take a hike. So far, knock on wood, I've been left alone today. Of course, I've also posted a sign in my cubie asking anyone sick to stay out due to my compromised immune system. I hope everyone has a terrific (and as germfree as possible!) weekend.

      almost 4 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      It must be a challenge to ward off the bugs at work, even without someone who is visibly sick. It's a pain in the rear end to wear those little earloop masks all day. I tried wearing one when I had a cold, and it didn't last long on me. Unless you want to draw some fangs on the front of one of those masks and put in some glowing red contact lenses, I'll go with ticklingcancer and say communication. You can be tactful, but even if she's offended, who cares. Blame it on your medication. One of the few bonuses. It would be nice to not have to go to the hospital. Nancy had a good idea with the ibuprofen. You could give her a small bottle, or a few of those individual packets, and say you hope she feels better. No matter how much you want to, do not secretly replace the ibuprofen with laxatives. That's wrong!

      The home care nurse that came for my dad for a short time said it's good to stay 6 feet away from sick people, wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when you're somewhere you cannot wash your hands, use those disinfectant wipes on surfaces, Is there a way to put a six foot barrier around your desk at work, or locate a little first aid kit more than 6 feet away for her to help herself?

      almost 4 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      Oh that's a good idea with the sign. Go with a bigger sign, and one of those DANGER! HAZARDOUS! 10 FT CLEARANCE. signs.

      Or something we like to call "plan B"


      almost 4 years ago
    • po18guy's Avatar

      1. If you are not in contact with the public, or in public view, wear a mask. Even though it is for you, I found that people often assumed that "I" had something horrible and stayed away.
      2. Buy her her own bottle of pills and give it to her with a note explaining that your immune system is compromised and you don't want to survive the cancer but die of an infection.
      3. Tell her that you are going to post her picture on FB as the greatest threat to your health. Maybe not, as hearing that might kill HER.

      almost 4 years ago
    • SpunkyS's Avatar

      Be honest with her while recognizing her need to be at work. "I realize you are not feeling well. And heaven knows we all need to be at work so we can pay our bills. What you may not know is that your cold, flu, etc.... is contagious and I am very susceptible to it so I would greatly appreciate if you could stay at least 6 feet away from me when you are ill. That way both of us can be at work "
      We would do less harm by gentle honesty than being afraid of hurting someone's feelings.

      almost 4 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      The chemo nurses let me have a canister of the hand foam from the infusion floor. I had a strict foam in policy in my office. If you wanted to meet with me, you had to foam in. People were mostly awesome about it. I had a handful of people that did not want to use the foam, but they were willing to go wash hands... Anyway, the canister of foal was right there - out in the open. And, I rocked the bald head at work (with a hat, actually), and so no one questioned me when I asked them to please use the hand foam.

      Other than that, I LOVE the idea that you buy her a bottle and let her know that you just cannot afford to handle anything that's been handled by ill people. Better yet, give her your current bottle and buy yourself a new one!

      Anyway, I did quite a lot of research on this topic, and the number one way to stay bug-free is to keep hands clean.... I couldn't wash my hands 27 times per day (my skin got toooooo dry), so the hand foam was a good solution.... I finished off last year's Minnesota winter with only two colds. That's better than the typical Minnesotan's rate!

      Good luck.

      PS - whether you get ill or not will not affect your white count. That simply will simply happen or not. I got kicked out of chemo twice for low infection fighters... and once for low platelets...

      almost 4 years ago
    • Stevedarke's Avatar

      You just can't win with some people, if she is so immature and self absorbed tell her you have a cancer that she may catch, she just may believe you an run for cover!

      almost 4 years ago
    • ScrapbookerKay's Avatar

      My office supervisor announced to the office workers that no one was to use my phone, my keyboard or my desk. It was a small office and I appreciated the fact that she told them my space was off limits. She also told them if they were sick, to stay home.

      almost 4 years ago
    • bigladylw79's Avatar

      I am scared to go back to work because of my chemotherapy. I work in a jail. Needless to say that there are a lot of sick inmates. Also we share desk because we have 3 shifts. My suggestion is if you can afford to take off work then do that, if you cant have your supervisor to explain to the young lady your situation.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Crash's Avatar

      Once (when I had recently finished chemo) I looked at a person who was bothering me and said, "I'm going to be sick." and then feigned a "hurl". They jumped backward. It makes me laugh every time I think about it.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Nonnie917's Avatar

      Pull this co-worker aside and have a private talk with her. Wear a mask too. Explain your situation to her and that everytime she comes near you she is taking a risk of infecting you which could cause you serious, serious problems and you don't want that. Personally, I would not be ashamed to wear a mask at work to protect myself. After all, your life is more important than what you look like.

      almost 4 years ago

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