I got sick this week. I was on a business trip and early afternoon of day one, I started to feel unwell. Strange. I don’t get sick. I was a little dizzy and a little nauseous.  I attributed it jet lag and dehydration, and drank water.  Three hours later, still dizzy and nauseous. I am perplexed. I don’t get sick. Minutes later, after a bout of projectile vomit, I continue to insist to myself, I am ok. Yes, I am shivering, but it is cold in here. I wash my hands with the hottest water I can tolerate to warm myself up while in the ladies room. Looking in the mirror after brushing my teeth, I notice the fluorescent lightening had rendered me an unflattering shade of green. But, I am good; I have got this under control.

Or, so I thought. My coworkers were alarmed at my pallor when I returned and insisted I leave. A peer said, “Don’t be selfish, think of the rest of us. If you have something, stop exposing 93 people to that something.”  I still felt hesitant about leaving. Which raised the question, why do we often look at “sick” with suspicion and feel the need to keep working?

I prepare for things, especially when I travel, sick isn’t one of them. Sick happens. For me and work, my thoughts are, I don’t want anyone to think I am faking; I won’t pretend to be sick to get out of work. I do not shirk my responsibilities. I do not look for excuses. I want to be thought of as dependable. But, I discovered, sick is sick. Someone had to drive me and the rental car back to the hotel. If you are sick, you need the sick time for good reasons*:

  1. No one wants to be exposed to your germs. Who hasn’t found their inner germophobe when some sniffling, sneezing, coworker who says, of I feel fine as they are try to shake your hand.
  2. You are not at your best. Your stuffy head, achy joints, 8 out 10 on the pain scale are going to impact your ability to do your job, making it more work for everyone else. Yes, you sent out 8 emails after your nap, but no one can really understand what you wrote, you forgot attachments and you missed a couple of meetings so some emails were no longer applicable. Stop being annoying to those who are well. Stop working, get better.
  3. Listen to your body. While I was in Austin, I relied on the navigation system in the rental to get me where I needed to go. I listened. Yet, I wouldn’t listen to my own body that was feverishly screaming for time out. What’s your body saying to you?

It’s the weekend and I’m home. I am feeling a lot better and pretty peppy. Today, my body is saying fluids and sleep. And while today is not a sick day, it is definitely a slow day. Sick is sick and we need the time off. When my car gets a flat tire, I remove the flat, put on the spare and drive a bit slower until I can replace the tire. This week, my body reminded me, the same the same thing applies. Listen to the warnings, take the sick day.

 

*For some, there is the economic impact of missed work. That discussion is out of scope for this post.