Sick days: do you take them? 4 reasons why you should!

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? 

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11 thoughts on “Sick days: do you take them? 4 reasons why you should!

  1. I always take my sick days when needed — our office encourages you to stay home and not get everyone else sick. Plus, I think that taking a day when I first feel ill and resting keeps me from becoming sicker.

  2. Sorry you don’t feel well. I hope the sore throat goes away ASAP! My husband once worked in an office that discouraged time off and a colleague was working in between vomiting in her trash can, right in the next cubicle. Thankfully, she was sent home. I guess if that doesn’t convince them that the illness is real…

  3. I get 5 sick days a year. Last year, I used 2… one was due to food poisoning (my own fault) & the other due to lady days. So really, I didn’t actually get sick!

    But I agree… if you’re sick, USE YOUR SICK DAYS! :)

  4. I’m a teacher, so calling in sick is a real pain since I have to provide lesson plans for the missed classes. I also feel guilty that people will have to cover my classes. However, I have called in sick a few times. I’ve also left early once or twice after my classes were done. I have some ridiculous co-workers who WILL NOT call in sick. Raging fever, the flu, stomach flu – they still come in and act as if they deserve a medal, when they are infecting everyone else!

  5. I totally understand those reasons for taking sick days!
    I wish i could take a sick day when I need to but I work in a small business where my team are only available over the weekends, due to them being at uni all week so I pretty much grin and bear it. I have about 2 months worth of sick leave built up, which would be a handy payout if I ever leave..

  6. In my job, I have difficulty calling in sick when I have a deadline. There isn’t anyone in my office that can easily cover in my absence, so if a tax return is due or commissions need to be submitted to payroll I go to work even if sick. Last year, while awaiting the results of a biopsy, I vowed I would never work when sick again. I thought of this vow last month as I drove to one of our remote locations to give a presentation with one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had. So much for the vow!

    I also know employees who forfeit unused vacation days. My brother just lost six weeks due to a new, “You can no longer roll over unused vacation day’s policy.” Also, there is a 20-year employee at my company who consistently forfeits 80 hours of unused vacation time each year. All those forfeited vacation days got him nowhere when management put him on a 32 hour work week last summer. Loyalty got him nowhere.

  7. I get 12 sick days a year and use anything from a few days to almost all of them due to an ongoing condition I have which requires me to visit the doctor a lot. They roll over though until you have about 130 sick days or so, but I doubt I’ll ever get to that point as I’m currently at 15 days.

    I think I’m pretty good about staying home when I’m sick, but some of my co-workers have come to work even when they have walking pneumonia. It’s not good.

  8. @MoneyMonk: I feel the same way. ‘course I couldn’t actually practice that before, but I definitely do now.

    @RainyDaySaver: It’s a good policy, that. Just doesn’t make sense to make yourself worse AND spread germs when a few days of rest early on could mend matters.

    @eemusings: I always felt guilty because I knew my boss would snipe behind my back about how he thought I wasn’t really sick – he did it to everyone else.

    @444: Thanks, but this virus has kicked my butt. I can’t believe the lengths you have to go to, to prove you’re ill.

    @mOOm: Pretty slowly, these past few months.

    @MoneyMaus: On the bright side, you didn’t really get sick! Not being sick is pretty great.

    @Saving Cents in the City: It stinks when calling out is nearly as much effort as going in. I’ve delivered lesson plans and books to classes for my teacher friends before. Wish there was a better system.

    @unknowntheartist: Oh that’s rough. There’s no chance they’ll set up a sub system so you can get a rest or have a replacement in an emergency?

    @Savvy Working Gal: Yikes. That’s quite an ugly side of sacrificing your own time and health; I know it seems unavoidable in some cases but .. doesn’t that 20 year employee care at all about a personal life?

    Loyalty has its place but rarely does it in the workplace to that extent.

    @Kathleen: Holy cow, 130 days? That’s a very generous rollover policy.

    I was pretty consistent about using my days to see the doctor for my condition as well, once I started realizing how foolish it was to sacrifice my health for the people I worked with.

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