Illness at work

Whether it’s the weather, the time of year, a bug doing the rounds or simply bad luck – we are all likely to be feeling ill and run down from time to time.  So, do you go to work or call in sick? It is not always as straight-forward a question as it seems.

I’ve had sinus troubles again recently. Not an unfamiliar story. Luckily, I managed to minimise the infection this time through some timely use of nasal spray, ibuprofen and a lot of rest over the weekend despite having a list of priority things a mile long to do (including studying for an exam on the Monday).  So I got through the exam, and was back at work feeling a wee bit sorry for myself, but confident that I wasn’t posing any risk to my colleagues. I might not have been the sharpest tack in the building, but I was functioning.

However, there were times in the past when I perhaps didn’t rest; when I kept pushing myself through the things that needed doing and consequently spent weeks recovering from the serious infection that set in. Worse still, I remember instances in my corporate past when I went to work ‘sick as a dog’ with something contagious because of some urgent task or backlog of work that needed attention. So what is the right decision when all’s ill? Here are some questions to consider before you start sharing your germs around:

  • How urgent are the tasks? (Is there anything that I can delegate, delay or drop?)
  • If tasks are truly urgent, can I work from home?
  • How much of a risk am I to myself? (Am I likely to make myself worse by going in to work? What are the consequences if I do end up bedridden?)
  • How much of a risk am I to my colleagues? (Am I contagious? What is the impact to the workload and the team if I share this illness with them all?)
  • How effective will I actually be when I am feeling this unwell? (How well can I concentrate? How is the quality of my work being affected?)

It might be a tough pill to swallow, but the world doesn’t stop revolving if we have a few days off ill. Sure – there are likely to be consequences, but it is worth pausing to more accurately weigh up the costs of going in to work vs giving yourself a day (or a few) to rest and recover more quickly.

What will you do when you’re next under the weather?

(And if you do decide to venture in to work when next ill, ask yourself how you feel at the end of that day – and if the answer is “worse” then what might your body be trying to tell you? A new day, a new choice!)