Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty Taking a Sick Day When Working From Home

Inevitably, you’ll eventually wake up with a pounding headache and a sore throat – the obvious signs of sickness. If you were working in an office, you could just call your boss and explain you can’t come in today. Not only do you feel awful, but it would be bad to spread your germs around the office and infect others.

Unfortunately, you’re now working from home and have an even harder time justifying taking a sick day. People who work from home are less likely to take time off for themselves, but they shouldn’t let things be like that.

Presenteeism is becoming a serious issue in the UK. This is when a person shows up to work, but they aren’t functioning properly due to illness. Why are people so reluctant to take time off, though?

The problem is partly a societal one. Our society values productivity above all else. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a job too, which leaves people worried about their job security and appearing lazy. Those who are self-employed also don’t get paid sick leave, so they are more likely to force themselves to work no matter what.

You might feel guilty about taking time off when you work remotely because there’s no risk of exposing anyone else. Your boss could even expect you to keep going as if nothing was wrong. Research shows that remote workers working sick is detrimental to both workers and companies, though.

For a start, research shows presenteeism is linked to increases in mental health conditions, in particular anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. These conditions are linked to prolonged sickness and absence. Workers don’t take off the time they need and risk becoming burned out, getting so stressed that their mental and physical health deteriorates.

There’s no getting around the fact your body needs time to heal when you get sick. You should rest and get plenty of water. Do your best to avoid further stress, which only compromises your immune system more. If you choose to soldier on through a cold, it’s going to last a lot longer than it would have done if you’d only taken a day or two to yourself. It can also leave you feeling worse in the long run, causing you to take additional time off later down the line.

It isn’t easy to focus on your work and be productive when you aren’t feeling well. Even a simple task becomes a challenge when dealing with a sore throat, sore sinuses, and a headache. Medication can impair fine motor skills too, which makes working next to impossible no matter how hard you try.

You are more likely to make mistakes when illness knocks you for six. It takes longer to make decisions too, which could lead to costly mistakes for employees. The average British worker spends around two weeks per year working ill, costing companies over £4,000 in lost productivity.

The obvious solution would be a change to workplace culture. Rather than encouraging people to work when sick, employers should place the health and wellness of employees first. Bosses should be more comfortable inviting people to take time off, and employees should be more comfortable asking for it.

Petra Cambell

Freelance graphic designer; I've been working from home since I left University 12 years ago.

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