Whenever people walk into the office coughing and sneezing, I want to approach them and say, “Unless you’re auditioning for a cold commercial, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest that you go home. Immediately. And don’t touch any doorknobs on the way out.”
In reality, I simply douse myself in hand sanitizer, of course avoid them at all costs, and make suggestions like, “You know what makes more sense than meeting in the conference room? Testing out some cool technology and handling this discussion over Skype!”
See, I understand. As much as I want to send all my sickly co-workers home for the day, I’ve also woken up, questioned if my head always felt this heavy, downed some Dayquil, and headed into the office.
What’s more, you know why? Since the second we get sick, we all tell ourselves the same three lies.
1. “I’m a Brave Warrior Who Does Whatever it Takes to Get My Work Done”
Individuals much weaker than me would surely curl up in bed today and answer all their emails from under the covers. But that’s not me! I’m a hero. Nay, a superhero. Just wait until my colleagues see what huge sacrifices I’ve made to come into the office today.
Here’s the thing: There’s nothing brave about coming into the office when you’re sick if you don’t have to. There are lots of heroic things you can do in an office. Heroic can be convincing your CEO to make all Fridays work-from-home days or being the person who has an extra phone charger. However, showing up with the sniffles is not one of them.
So, rather than choosing to make this your employee-of-the-month moment, stay home. There will be plenty of opportunities when you’re healthy to show that you’re a hard worker.
2. “My Company Will Surely Fall Apart Without Me”
If I’m not there today to finish up the presentation, it’ll never be finished on time. Then we’ll have to reschedule our meeting with the clients. And then we’ll miss hitting our financial goals, and the company will go under, and everyone will be laid off all because I took today off.
You’re good at your job. I don’t question that for a second. But unless you own the company and are the sole employee, trust that your team’s got your back for a day or two. Will a meeting get delayed? Maybe. Will your presentation look different than you intended it to? Probably. But will the world implode? No.
Taking a sick day is like taking a vacation. Not in what you’re doing while out of the office, but in the sense that your competent colleagues are more than capable of covering for you for a couple days.
3. “I’m Not Contagious”
No one’s a doctor until they’re sick. At that point all of a sudden we all have PhDs in infectious diseases and can pinpoint the exact moment we’re no longer contagious.
I know I’ve walked into the office looking like I just came from a coffee date with Death and promised everyone, “I sound worse than I am.” And while it was true that I may have felt better than my congestion would suggest, I absolutely could have gotten other people sick, and I absolutely should not have been in the office.
So whenever you’re tempted to say that, especially to anyone questioning your wellness in the office, you rather try this: “I think I need to take a sick day.”
Getting a cold sucks. Getting behind on work also sucks. In a perfect world, neither would ever happen. Unfortunately, as you very well know, that’s not the case.
So give yourself a break the next time you wake up feeling badly and stay in bed. In case you’re worried about your to-do list, fear not. You can probably still accomplish a decent amount without ever changing out of your pajamas.