Sick Days

photo from Flickr stream of RLHyde (http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/)

photo from Flickr stream of RLHyde (http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/)

I have a bone to pick when it comes to sick days. A sick day shouldn’t require you to be sneezing, coughing, chugging green tea and sipping soup. Taking a sick day should not make you feel like a lesser employee. It shouldn’t make you feel guilt for your body telling you “hey, you need a break!” If anything, you should feel guilty for driving your body to the point where it can no longer fight off disease and forces you to stop.

In fact, maybe the language of calling it a “sick” day should be expelled from our lexicon. Instead, let’s re-frame it and call it a “wellness” day because that’s what they really should be.

Showing up to work while you feel under the weather, exhausted, or just plain out of it costs employers an estimated $160 BILLION a year. That’s twice the amount it costs employers when you call out!

Wellness days are more than likely part of your compensation package (especially if you are a salaried employee) and you should feel no guilt in using them. Taking a day for your wellness be it physical, mental, spiritual, is good for you and for your office. Physical = you are worn down, physically sore and exhausted. Mental = you have what a friend and I like to call “the dumb” which means your brain has simply reached its limit due to stresses and mental gymnastics of managing work life, family life, etc.  Spiritual = you feel lost, disconnected, disenchanted and need a self-centering, reflective day to get back your sense of purpose and drive. (By the way, we always speak about student mental health as a hot button issue but what about professional mental health?)

Of course, you will need those days for when you are actually ill with a bug or virus so don’t abuse this suggestion. What I am saying is take a day here or there just to refresh and relax, maybe once every other month or so. Doing that may actually decrease the amount of times you are curled up on the couch with a cold and tissues, soup and Netflix to keep you company which means you are more awake, aware, and alert for your job.

Ditch the sick day, embrace the wellness day. I’m willing to be you’ll be a better employee and contributor to your organization as a result.

(I completely understand the situation that those with hourly positions are in. A sick day means less hours, which means less of a paycheck, which could result in more stress. I’m a big advocate for paid sick leave, especially for hourly employees, because we cannot and should not expect ourselves or others to be able to work nonstop without an reprieve aside from the weekends (if you even have weekends off!). Sick days are expensive but having someone in the office who is only 50% present due to feeling under the weather isn’t good for your office and isn’t good for said employee. A happier, healthier workforce is better than a burned out, stressed workforce. What kind of workforce are you leading?) 

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