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How to take a sick day without feeling really guilty

29 Aug 2019

For everyone’s sake, you’re better off allowing yourself to get the rest you need when you are sick, even if that means having to miss work.

If you’re sick, you should take a sick day. This feels logical, yet the decision of whether to take a sick day is often coloured by a lot of needless agonising over whether it’s appropriate. Some workers may even find themselves feeling guilty over calling in sick.

Why it’s important to take a sick day

If you find yourself hesitating to request some time off because you’re unwell, keep a few things in mind.

For one, attempting to power through illness could just make you sicker in the long run. You may something that begins as a nasty cold but progresses to something more serious because you didn’t give yourself some TLC when symptoms started to appear.

This ultimately will lead to more of a productivity loss in the long run because a more serious illness will require more recovery time. So if you’re worried about what your boss may think, consider that perspective.

Not to mention that if you come into the office coughing, sneezing and spreading germs, you could pass on your illness to all your co-workers. Your peers may slightly resent picking up something from you and there will be an even larger loss of productivity if multiple people are out sick.

That’s not to say that if you give someone a cold you should beat yourself up about it, nor is it to say that productivity loss should be your primary consideration when you’re not well. However, your boss and your co-workers will likely thank you for calling in sick when appropriate.

How to call in sick

Your first step when calling in sick will likely be to determine if it’s necessary. You’ll know yourself when you feel too rotten to concentrate. If you can barely lift your head off the pillow, you’re not exactly going to drag yourself into the office.

Mental health days also are a valid reason to take time off, so do keep that in mind. Unfortunately, people still have an internal stigma that separates mental health from physical health, when in fact they’re both important aspects of your wellbeing.

Even if you feel mostly fine but you are contagious, it could be worth considering staying home. You could, if you’re feeling up to it, even propose that you work from home until you can’t spread your illness to others  – a compromise that your boss will likely appreciate.

Your workplace will have its own individual policy for how to alert people that you’re sick. After that, however, taking even 20 minutes to get your ducks in a row will help sate any latent guilt over taking a day off. Send a quick email to your direct reports, cancel or reschedule any relevant meetings, and inform your team of anything that you may need to be covered in your absence. You could even set an out-of-office.

However, don’t feel like you need to necessarily be on emails all day. If you’re sick, you’re sick. If you’re not a person who pushes your company’s sick day policy to its absolute limits, no one is going to be frustrated with you and no one is going to think you are faking it. If you’re reliable and hard-working, people will understand and will wish you well, and the team will adapt to you not being around for a day or two.

You can, if you’re truly feeling restless, monitor your inbox from bed. Ultimately though, the best way to return to being productive is to nip an illness in the bud.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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