Sick days


I have a little summer cold this week. Nothing unusual or severe, but I took a sick day and stayed home.

Do you take sick days? Probably not as much as you should. All morning I wrestled with whether to stay home or go to work. I had no meetings on my calendar or particularly urgent deadlines. But, I told myself, I also wasn’t that sick. Sure, I have an annoying cough, drippy nose, foggy mind and am tired. Those are things I, like all of you, have worked through before when I had to finish a project or attend to another important commitment. When I was pregnant with Clark, I came down with an awful cold the morning I was scheduled to lead a major strategic planning discussion with 60+ community members. So I did it, then came home and crashed.

Sick days aren’t just for you! They also help prevent the spread of germs and illness! I don’t want my coworkers passing around their germs to me, so why should I come to work and risk them getting sick? What about all of the people with compromised immune systems, that I may or may not know about, who I could come in contact with throughout the day? Also, how gross is it to listen to my sniffle or blow my nose all day? So stay home, please.

An important recognition: I have paid sick leave at my job. I believe everyone should have access to paid sick leave. It’s a basic worker right and one that too many people don’t have. My organization provides paid sick leave to all full-time employees and we’re working on phasing in part-time employees too. It’s a financial risk. It’s cheaper to not provide it. But offering paid sick leave is the right thing to do and trust me, I know the stresses that come with balancing an organizational budget and how these costs add up. It’s also my experience, though, that most workers do not use anywhere near their allowed sick leave and I don’t have any personal examples of workers taking advantage of our generous leave policy. You can watch me talk about why I support paid sick leave here, if you’re in the mood for some local labor activism.

Back to today. We’re made to think that if we aren’t at work, we’re not productive and that if we’re not productive, we’re not worthy. I love my job and I love that it allows me to work on behalf of something I feel strongly about, but it doesn’t define my worth. Nor do the number of loads of laundry I do or whether I accomplished anything at all today except resting. I kept getting up and thinking, “Oh it’s a lovely day I should go for a walk or plant some flowers or do an errand or reorganize my closet.” But the whole point of sick days is to rest, heal and not spread your germs. So please, if you have paid sick leave, use it!

I’ll confess that I did grab my laptop this morning after I brought Clark to school, but it made me feel better to have it and check in a little bit so I’m still counting this as a restful day.

There was an amazing article on The Onion, or maybe McSweeney’s, making fun of people who think they are too important to take a sick day when they need one and are desperate to prove how tough they are at the risk of infecting all of their co-workers and their families. I can’t find it though, but if you have it, please send the link.