Sick Days: Use When Under the Weather or Overworked?

As you sit at your office working away, you hear a co-worker nearby hacking up a lung and blowing their nose into tissue after tissue. At this point, there are two common lines of thought that occur in response to this situation:

“Wow, what a hard worker – comes into the office even when they’ve got a terrible cold.”


“Why are they here? They are going to give the rest of us their flu. Great! I know I’ll get sick this weekend.”

The government recommends that anyone exhibiting the physical symptoms associated with cold or flu stay home. As fall turns to winter,  consider these reasons to stay home or encourage your co-workers or employees to stay home when sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching and complaints of being up all night strike:

  • Work/life balance takes a toll. Most people in the working world appreciate a company that offers a good work/life balance. However, if the company culture silently supports employees coming in when feeling under the weather, their appreciation for a good job combined with a solid personal life is likely to be impacted. In turn, an employee’s overall satisfaction at the company could go down and even contribute to a shorter tenure with that employer.
  • Office productivity goes down when employees are sick. Rest really can do wonders. If you go into the office with severe symptoms, you are likely contagious, and you can cause the rest of your office mates to get sick too. Depending on the size of your office, a cold and flu can often take days if not weeks to cycle  through. Instead of suffering through the work-day, compare  the impact to your environment and office mates to coming in and  getting a job done and out the door. Not to mention that we are coming into job review season – do you really want your boss to look at your latest work effort and wonder why it didn’t turn out quite as good as expected?
  • Healthy office competition takes a hit. Encouraging a healthy competition that supports innovation and quality work is one thing, but fostering a workplace that causes co-workers or employees to feel like they really should come in when they are sick as a dog in order to be looked upon as a good worker among peers is another.

We understand that some people like to stockpile their allotted number of sick days so that they can use them for a personal day or perhaps cash them out at the end of the year. But if you are still thinking that you are not really that sick, refer to WebMD’s list of questions to consider before jumping in your car and heading to the office:

  • Are you contagious?
  • Will resting at home help your body to overcome the illness?
  • Are you taking medications that could impair your ability to think, work, operate machinery, or drive?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, stay home – this is why the sick day was invented. Giving yourself time to relax can help you get back in the saddle a lot sooner than if you are to push yourself.