Calling in Sick

by Melissa Smith - Wed, 06 May 2020

It can be hard to figure out when to call in sick when you work from home. You don’t have to worry about getting your co-workers sick, so you might be inclined to call in sick only under the most extreme circumstances, right? That, my friends, is one of the many reasons why work-life balance can be harder when you work from home.

Maybe this kind of decision is easy for you, but it wasn’t for me when I first began working from home. I always erred on the side of powering through at my own expense.

Some food for thought before we get started:

  • No one gives Perfect Attendance awards anymore. (If they do, their priorities are out of whack).
  • You do not owe it to your job to give them all of the time that you don’t feel like crap while you’re sick.
  • Taking a sick day may improve your reputation as a remote worker; it means that you take your commitment to doing quality work seriously.
  • Consider taking the advice you would give a good friend or subordinate.
  • If you are feeling sub-par, your work may also be sub-par. That does no one favors and could damage your reputation.

I’m not feeling great myself, so you can judge for yourself whether I ought to have called in sick today!

Push Through If You Only Feel “Under the Weather” and…

  • You’ve got a significant deadline.
  • You don’t have PTO or sick days to spare.
  • You have some easy tasks where you can phone it in for a day.
  • You have some checks and balances in your process that can catch any mistakes that slip through.

Consider Working Odd Hours to Catch Up If...

  • Any of the above apply and...
  • It is not a hardship to rearrange your schedule.
  • The illness you have is predictable (i.e. allergies or the bug your family just had) and you’ll be able to tell when to push and when to nap.
  • Catching up later will not make you stressed out and sicker.

Go Either Way If...

  • You’ve got a low-grade fever.
  • Concentrating on work is difficult but not impossible.
  • Meds will alleviate many of your symptoms with tolerable side effects.

Definitely Call in Sick If...

  • You’ve got more than a one-degree fever.
  • No quantity of naps or medicine will help you feel better.
  • It is VERY difficult to concentrate.
  • This work week is easy, but next week isn’t.
  • It is a Thursday or Friday. (You do not have to sacrifice your weekend by pushing through the week).

Always Call in Sick If…

  • You have more than a two-degree fever.
  • You have significant “gastrointestinal distress” with output.
  • You have pain that makes it impossible to concentrate.
  • You make an Emergency Room visit. Even if it’s a relatively quick visit, you’re assuredly very stressed and probably need some aftercare. No one will fault you once you say, “I need to go to the ER”, and they shouldn’t need to know more details than that.