We’ve all been there. You wake up one morning, and your head feels like it’s in a vice. You’re feverish and nauseous, and you have a headache that could make the Hulk scream in pain.
But it’s Monday and you have to work. You don’t want to call in sick… but if you don’t call in sick, then what? You’re a full-time remote worker, so you are technically already at home. Do you still need to take the sick day off?
The answer is, you probably should.
As remote work continues to grow, the discussion around taking a sick leave has once again ignited. According to several workplace experts, most people will still continue to work despite their sickness. Why is that so? Because they don’t want to make it seem that they’re taking advantage of their work-from-home.
“If you are only traveling from your bedroom to your home office, remote workers may rationalize, ‘What harm can be done if I work while I am sick? At least I’m not contagious.” says Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace.
Should Employees Take that Sick Leave?
So there can be various different circumstances for taking a sick leave. A broken bone, an injury, or something of the sort, are all reasons an employee should take the sick leave.
“If employees have a condition that affects their ability to be mobile, like a broken bone or torn tendon, they might have to take a sick day if they work in a traditional workplace because travel to work would be difficult, but they could easily work at home. I can think of other such illnesses, such as having something contagious and not wanting to infect others but feeling good enough to work or being postoperative and being able to work in short spurts. Working at home could be ideal for that.” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute.
However, working while sick is not recommended. In fact, it will likely into something more problematic for the employee. Working in sickness will not only cause a physical health decline but also affect mental health. That’s because when working with illness will; likely worsen the situation if the employee isn’t well rested. Even if they do, they won’t be able to work as efficiently.
In fact, research has shown that working while ill leads to negative work performance and exhaustion. In addition to that, research also shows that working while sick increases the likelihood of needing to take sick leave at a later stage, and it can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Lambert suggests workers can play a role in finding their own balance. “I think the most important thing you can do as an individual is to figure out what works for you – and work in an environment that supports your thriving. So, if working even when you are just a little sick, feels like thriving to you – go for it. Though I would add a disclaimer and say: proceed with caution.”
However, to improve productivity, it’s important for employers to take a few steps.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers should communicate to employees that they expect employees to take time off when they’re sick. If you have a policy of mandatory sick days, make sure your team knows about it. Explain why the policy exists and give examples of how it can be beneficial for both the company and the employee.
It’s also important that employers make clear what happens if an employee doesn’t take a sick day when they need one.
Make Employees Care For their Physical and Mental Health
It’s important for employers to talk to employees about taking care of their physical and mental health.
When working from home, people may think they can just ignore their health because they don’t have to go into an office that day. But if your immune system isn’t up to snuff, it could affect the quality of your work and make it harder for everyone involved—especially if other people are depending on your output.
Taking sick days when necessary is especially important for remote workers because there is no one else around to take over for them during their illness, which means there will be an impact on productivity if they do not take time off for their own health needs as well as those of others.
To raise awareness, employers can bring this topic to an all-hands meeting where both remote and on-site workers are present.
Encourage Remote Employees to take Breaks even When They’re Not Sick
Employers should encourage employees to make time for themselves when they’re not sick.
As a remote worker, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your job. And that’s okay! You probably have a lot of responsibilities and no time to spare. It’s not always easy to take time for yourself when you have so much going on.
But even if you’re healthy and feel like you don’t need any “me time”, it’s still important to take some time for yourself. Your health is important, and taking care of it will help you stay productive at work and make sure that you don’t burn out too quickly. The more rested and relaxed you are, the better you’ll perform in all areas of life—including work!
Make Employees Follow Your Lead
Ensuring that managers and executives take sick days themselves is the best way to ensure that others do the same.
It’s important to take sick days when you’re feeling under the weather. And it’s equally important to not make your employees feel bad if they have to do the same.
If you’re a manager or executive, it’s your job to lead by example and show everyone else in your company that taking a day off when you need one isn’t a sign of weakness or failure—it’s a sign of good health, self-care, and good judgment.
If you’re an employee, it’s important that you don’t feel like taking a sick day means giving up on your career aspirations or letting go of some kind of “professional” facade. You need to know that taking a sick day is just another part of being human and living the kind of life we all want: one where we get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat well, and spend time with our friends and family.
The rise of remote work has changed how workers take sick leave, but it’s important that employees take sick days when they’re not feeling well. Employees who take time off when they’re sick are more likely to be productive in the future than those who don’t. Taking time off when you’re not feeling well gives your body a chance to rest and heal so you can do your best work later on.
Sick leave is an essential part of keeping yourself healthy, which is why employers should encourage employees to take it when they need it.