I’m taking one today, sort of, because I’ve got the worst sore throat and set of aches and I still can’t help but feel like I’ve got to get some work done today. Even in the freelancing life, I feel guilty not working.
This suck-it-up attitude isn’t rare, unfortunately, and rarely serves us well except in an environment where taking sick days is institutionally frowned upon. No joke, I’ve worked in offices where the rule was: “You can go home if you feel sick, but I don’t and the big boss doesn’t, we’re always here no matter what, so I don’t know why you’d feel the need to.” Even then, it’s not good to bow to that unreasonable culture.
I’ll tell you why you should use those sick days!
Full time employees with benefits have sick and vacation days, and a defined set of ways they can use them. ie: You should take a sick day when you feel ill, or have a doctor’s appointment. Part-timers and freelancers do have to worry about not getting paid for taking a day or three off, but that’s another argument for saving your pennies against a rainy day.
1. INFECTION Caring is not sharing. When you’re feeling sick, especially when you’re at the beginning of the illness, you’re likely to be contagious. This means you’re very likely to pass along the germs to your colleagues and keep the sick cycle going. Even if you’re conscientious about washing your hands, there are usually communal eating/gathering areas and you’ll leave them teeming with germs. Gross. It’s even worse if you don’t have a desk job and have contact with lots of moving parts that are subsequently handled by others.
2. PERFORMANCE (short term) Who does their best work when coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and feeling run down? Show of hands, anyone? Don’t kid yourself, people, if you can’t even sleep in that state, you can’t do your work effectively.
3. PERFORMANCE (long term) It’s a set-up. What’s worse than sucking it up and trudging to your desk through your day of misery? Having it come back to bite you. You may make mistakes, poor judgment calls or just plain forget to follow through on the commitments you made. And two weeks later, what people remember isn’t that you were sicker’n’ a dog and showed up anyway, they’ll just see the aftermath of your Sickie performance. And be ticked off because they’re sick now too.
4. HEALTH “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” The Princess Bride was right about many things, and this is no exception. Even if you don’t have a compromised immune system, routinely neglecting your health repeatedly takes a toll on your body and triggers untold stress long-term. If nothing else, the habit of ignoring your minor health issues can lead to missing important changes that may indicate greater problem than chronic colds or flus. My junior high math teacher ignored a persistent cough for months, and it was months before she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer. They might have been able to treat if she’d come in for the cough almost a year earlier.
If you have sick days, use them. If you’re saving them for a payout (Funny about Money did), use other days if you have to, but don’t save your days and sacrifice your well-being.
So how many sick days do you get? And how many have you used?