Feeling Sick: Go to Work or Stay at Home?

If you're feeling sick, and not sure whether you should go to work, making a decision can be difficult. On the one hand, you want to show your commitment to your work, on the other, you do not want to spread the disease or give poor work results.

Things to consider

The "stay home or go to work" situation can be made easier to think about with some basic concepts:

  • How sick are you, really? This is the real issue. Your job is important, but your health is irreplaceable. If you're feeling so lousy that you're losing battles of wits with the cup of coffee, you are definitely not well enough to go anywhere but to a doctor or to bed. Driving, or trying to survive public transport, isn't likely to be a good idea.
  • Are you likely to spread flu in the workplace? If so, you're not doing your employer any favors by going to work, either. Every person who goes to work with an easily spread disease like this costs the economy billions, every year. Your boss doesn't need that, and nor do your co-workers, who'll lose pay.
  • Is there any really desperate work-related need for you to be at work? If so, you can try to communicate with the boss about the issues, or a colleague and shut down any problems your absence might cause.
  • Are you worried about taking sick leave? You shouldn't be, but if you are, the bottom line here is that if you try working when you're sick, you'll probably cost yourself more days because you will spread the illness, eventually it will come back to you again.

Don't take risks with your health  

The all too common fact is that people will go to work when sick, and their health progressively deteriorates as a result. A series of minor illnesses can cause you to get run down in a relatively short period. Getting run down makes you much more vulnerable to more difficult medical situations. If this situation continues for a while, you may find that you're spending more time feeling sick than well. That's the classic case of a general medical situation which must be addressed. You will need to take remedial action to undo the damage and restore your health.

  • Be realistic about your state of health: There's such a thing as "too sick" and that's what you have to avoid at all costs.
  • Be aware of your work environment: Some workplaces are very unhealthy in flu season. If you're getting sick all the time, you're working in the wrong place.
  • Stay fit: Whatever you can do to stay healthy, even in a desk job.
  • Eat properly: Skipping meals can make you susceptible to sickness, and runs down your energy very rapidly. Sugary and fatty foods will make you feel worse; fresh food will make you feel stronger.
  • Rest properly: Long hours take their toll. Manage your time, don't be managed by it.