Career Management

Do you ever feel like you have too much going on to be ill? How about: do you feel guilty about being ill because you have others relying on you? Now we don’t mean family, we mean colleagues, managers, clients, employees, bosses. But wait… did you get ill on purpose? No? Well then, why do we feel guilty?

Recent Glassdoor research suggests that Brits are taking time off sick; over half of employees took sick leave in 2015. However, the study indicates that one in four employees are “too scared” to take time off, and a further quarter of those questioned cite pressure from management to not take time off for illness. 44% say that those in their workplace will take time off, but will return to work before fully recovered. What does this say about our current work-ethic?

You might think that you’re well enough to get in your car, and sit in the office all day – maybe you are? But should you use this as a compromise for being ill? No. “Presenteeism”, as it’s known, has been a growing issue within workplaces. So why do we fight our bodies and force ourselves to come into work? A study into the issue suggested reasons such as: personal money issues, work-related stress, fear of dismissal, and “perceived” pressure from managers.

Well, here are 7 reasons why NOT taking sick leave is bad for your company…

1. You will infect others

Not only are you contagious to others, everyone will avoid you because of it. So you’re in the office, you’re ill, and no one will come near you? Get back to bed. Plus, if anyone gets sick in the next few days, you will be blamed. Surely your managers would rather just you took time off for a few days, than an entire team off ill for even longer?

2. Your illness will affect morale in the office

Even if you’re not the life and soul of the office, your negative vibes will inevitably bring others in your team down, and by extension, a large percentage of the office. You are entitled to feel rubbish about your health, but when your mood can affect others and their work too, it’s really not worth you coming into the office.

3. Will you actually get much done?

If you need to get something done, do you need to do it in the office? Can it wait? Are you self-imposing the deadline, or assuming that the client/colleague won’t understand that you need some time off? Stop. Accept that you’re poorly, and advise others accordingly. Stand your ground, because realistically, you won’t get very much done if you drag yourself to work – and even if you do, it will be poor quality and a waste of the energy you do have left.

4. Your body is telling you to take a break – listen to it!

While you probably (definitely) didn’t cause your illness, maybe your body is trying to tell you something? Have you been working long hours recently? Have you been getting enough sleep, eating well (or eating at all?), and just generally looking after yourself? Don’t underestimate the intelligence of our biology; we as humans can handle a lot, but sometimes our bodies reach breaking point. When this happens, we need to listen and accept it’s time for a rest.

5. You are stunting your recovery

Forcing yourself into the office takes you out of a resting state – integral for your recovery – and into an environment where you are expected to work as if completely healthy. Because you are physically at work, but mentally feeling sorry for yourself (it’s okay, you’re ill), you aren’t going to perform well, and you will be exposed to further infection a lot more than if you were still in bed. Surely, staying at home for the day and keeping an eye on important emails will put you in better stead. You will speed up your recovery so you can return at 100%, rather than an entire week of running on 50%, 60%, 70% etc.

6. You are setting a bad – not good – example

While you might think that you being in the office while you’re unwell makes you look tough, resilient and committed to your work, it doesn’t. You’re setting a precedent for your colleagues/employees, and not to mention yourself, that you should come into work no matter what. But do you want to encourage others to believe that work is all there is? What about your health – isn’t that important?

7. You are more likely to ‘pull a sickie’ (and it will be obvious)

If you never take time off sick, when you do, it will probably be seen as unusual or suspect. You may have to lie or exaggerate your condition, as you might feel a need to prove yourself. The aforementioned LinkedIn suggests that 9% of employees would ‘pull a sickie‘ this year, but more concerning is the fact that half of these employees would do so simply because they need a rest.

So when should I take sick leave?

Let yourself have guilt-free time off when you are feeling less than say 70-80% healthy, as you are setting a reasonable standard for taking sick leave. You know your body more than anyone, so trust your instincts. You aren’t ‘abusing’ the system, but you also aren’t denying its existence. You are just responsibly ‘cashing in’ on the time off you are entitled to. It’s not even like it’s a holiday; you’re ill, you can’t do much for yourself and you have to cancel plans. The least you can do is let yourself slob about at home, not worrying, and focussing on getting better.

Image: Shutterstock


About Lizzi Hart

Lizzi Hart is a Linguistics graduate from the University of Sussex, a Marketing Assistant at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and a freelance music journalist. She has had work published through the Guardian, the Independent, Metro, The Huffington Post and Elite Daily.

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