Health, Life

Workaholics – It’s Time To Stop The Sick Day Guilt

why it's ok to take sick days

Hello my lovelies. I want to offer you a bit more variety, which is why I’m going to have guest stars on my blog. Not brands that are paying me money to post their article on my blog, but content from genuinely talented writers and friends with a story to tell. This post is by Lauren Preston, and it’s a pretty fab read. So go on, banish that sick day guilt by reading her thoughts and tips below…

Every time I start to feel under the weather or can feel yet another cold coming on (thank you winter), I also get the impending dread that comes along with it. Because I know, that I’m going to have to consider whether or not I need a day off sick from work.

The morning of, I spend about half an hour debating

  • Whether or not I actually am too sick to go into work
  • Who else is off that day, and
  • How I will be judged

If I do then decide to take said sick day, I spend the entire day feeling as though I’ve disappointed everyone. Worse still, I feel as though everyone will think I’m this pathetic weakling who just keels over at the sniff of any illness (whilst I may be privy to dramatizing things on some occasions, my health isn’t one of them).

If you work in an office, this is of particular note if the illness in question is cold or flu related because no-one wants to be that guy who’s off ‘with a cold’. But that in itself is crazy because once you drag yourself in with snot dripping down your face and sneezes catapulting out of you left right and centre, guess what? Everyone else now has the cold, meaning more hours are lost than were needed to begin with!

So, what is it that makes us behave in this absurd manner? Because I know I’m certainly not alone in this way of thinking. 3 words. Sick day guilt.

We tell ourselves that our colleagues won’t be able to cope – they will, that our managers will be upset – they shouldn’t be (and if they are displaying it very obviously, that’s a whole separate matter for HR), and that the whole working world will come to a stop because we’re not there – it won’t, even if you are a wonderful worker, extremely busy and have a mega important role.

But do you know what the thing is that really gets me with this? We’re our own worst enemy! Not only do we not help ourselves by choosing to not rest our weary heads, we also encourage the problem. How many times have you heard people judging others for taking a sick day? “Oh Jennifer’s off today? She’s only got a cold!” or “Mark is off sick AGAIN? What’s wrong this time?”

I speak to immediate colleagues, friends of the self-employed world and countless friends and family members who can all relate to this type of guilt. It’s why we continue to go into the office or work from our home studies even when we truly know that rest is the best medicine. This in itself is counter-productive because it means that we are not getting to the very root of why we have decided to take the day off sick in the first place – to get better!

Relentlessly checking emails or spending that time feeling this awful sick day guilt is not going to give us that rest we are in such desperate need of. Sick day guilt leaves us feeling stressed, nervous, anxious and tense. On these occasions, we are quite literally worrying ourselves sick.

When we’re already sick! It’s madness and can lead to a whole host of other issues. Plus the stress that inevitably comes with it? Well, that’s just going to lead to more time off in the long run, as when we do then have to head back into the office, we’re not at our best and so the cycle continues.

So what about us self-employed folks?

Now of course, from a self-employed perspective, there’s another little spanner in the already guilty works. Money. Most people who work in an office have the benefit of ensured pay when they take a day or two off but for those without the salary security?

That’s just another reason to feel guilty about being sick. But the same rule applies. Your health is a priority. Look at it this way, you’re relying on that pay check as a direct result of your hard work, but you need to be at your best in order to get the job done.

Of course, there’s a difference in this way of working, in that you cannot just call in sick, because erm, that would be to yourself. “Hi me, I’m just calling in to say I can’t make it in today. Thanks, me.” It’s a different working world and you will have work that needs completing, often to tight deadlines.

In cases such as these, it’s vital to be prepared. Of course, it’s not always possible but not leaving your deadlines to the last minute (I know, I know, I too can be guilty of this), or having back-up and people you can ask for help at the last minute is crucial to ensure you can drop the hero cape and get back under the covers when you really need to.

When faced with the prospect of your home study, it can be even more tempting to just log on and crack on with work. But we must learn to leave the laptop alone, step away from our phones and quite literally, switch off.

Speaking as someone who has experienced the need to show face when ill, get this –

Presenteeism is the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity.

This is a warning set out by Professor Sir Cary Cooper in his opening keynote speech at this year’s CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. And what’s worse? He says that “Nearly one third of staff persistently turn up to work ill. Just 35 per cent are generally healthy and present.”

That figure is scarily low and is indicative of a work culture so focused on the importance of showing face that unreasonable amounts of pressure are placed on people. And as much as we would like to think it, we are not superhuman. To be so would mean to never suffer from any health concerns.

We are humans, plain and simple. We have bodies, which sometimes become unwell. Nothing good comes out of feeling guilty for this and so we must act accordingly and look after our bodies. And if you need further confirmation, yes guys, it even happens to Beyoncé from time to time.

In addition to this guilt we feel, it also means that we are valuing ourselves at an overall much lower rate. Most of us are paid not only to show up to work, but to show up to work and do the best job we can.

By turning up when we are anything less than healthy and well is to do ourselves a severe disservice because it’s not just our time we’ve got up for grabs. We’ve got specific skills, experience in abundance and fantastic ideas. Just think what we could offer up if we apply our very best selves to get the job done.

So I urge you please to join me in this way of thinking. Next time you are sick, be sick. Stay at home, get some much-needed rest and focus on getting yourself better. As a friend of mine once said to me, sometimes all you need is a day under the covers, with a crisp sandwich and TV fit for “soup-brain”. So, do it. Minus the guilt. Trust me, both you and your colleagues will thank you for it.