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by Vault Careers | September 30, 2011


There is a belief among some people that if they come into work every day, they might earn some perfect attendance record for their “work first” mentality.  These people show up to work sick – sneezing without covering their mouth and complaining about strep throat before filling their thin-nozzle water bottle under the water cooler to share their germs with their co-workers.  Sharing is not always caring.  In addition, they complain about how sick they are, hoping someone will recognize how much a martyr they are and give them a raise or promotion.  That’s not how things work.  If you’re sick, there is only one thing you should do – stay home. 

I was once one of those people.  I remember proudly telling an HR rep at my old job, “I work hard no matter what.  I never take off.  I can be coughing up a lung and you better believe I will be at my desk.”  She looked at me, as if to say, ‘don’t think of bringing those germs around me.’  It was the opposite reaction from what I thought I would receive.  She then went on to scold me for what I thought was my amazing work ethic and explained why I should stay home when I’m sick.  Here are some reasons she gave:

Think of others.  You are contagious in the early stages of a cold.  You might think you are able to operate sick, but you’re co-workers might not be Supermen like you.  By passing around your germs, you risk hurting the efficiency of everyone in the office and therefore could be hurting your company’s productivity, as a whole, no matter how well you think you are performing between tissue-blowing sessions. 

Think of yourself.  You think you can operate while sick, but you can’t.  The aches, the pains, the number of times you have to look up and twitch your nose around to fight a sneeze or worse (yes, it just got gross) are certainly affecting your performance.  The more days you push yourself to get to work, the longer it is going to take you to get better.  You will actually be doing yourself a service by staying home just one day.  Stay in bed.  Drink lots of fluids.  Relax and watch a little television.  By the time you wake up the next morning, you’ll feel more energized and ready for the work ahead than you would if you chose to “tough it out.”  And if you wake up still sick, then you should just go to a doctor, because work is definitely out of the question. 

You’re not that special.  The company will not fall apart if you call in sick one day because of a cold.  They will get by fine without you.  No, they will.  I promise.  Don’t be that person who is so arrogant, they think, “I have to come in…who can do my job if I don’t.”  Bob, the guy in the cubicle next to you, was highly offended by that belief.  And now he’s got a cold, because of you, too.  You better hope he doesn’t get you in the company’s next Secret Santa.  A box of tissues, sanitizer and a bottle of anti-bacterial Windex are not fun gifts at all.  That was not a fun Christmas for me at all. 

You can work from home.  If you have to work, just do it from the comfort of your bedroom…in your pajamas.  Not only are you getting rest; you’re not getting everyone sick; you’re satisfying your need to get the job done; and you might be helping your company by still being there despite not being physically present.  We live in an age where we can literally work from home every day if we wanted to.  There are some people who can get so much more done from home without the distractions of noisy co-workers present.  So, at least when we’re sick, we should be able to take advantage of this opportunity.  And you get to work in your pajamas.  Who doesn’t like that?

They give you time off…take it!  When you join the company, they explain the whole package to you – soup to nuts – and that package includes vacation days (which you should be taking), personal days and sick days.  They are basically telling you that if you are sick, don’t come in…at least three to five times a year, depending on the company.  It’s your responsibility to only be sick for that many days and if you are, just stay home – Billy, don’t be a hero!  That’s a song title, but you get my point.

--Jon Minners,                                                                                                                                                           


Filed Under: Workplace Issues
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