Office Sick Day: Take care of yourself. No, really!

Office Sick Day: Take care of yourself. No, really!

Calling out from work when you are sick should not be a complicated issue. We should feel comfortable taking time off to rest and recover. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma around staying home. If you search “should I stay home from work,” you will be faced with endless headings of “Stay home when you’re sick,” but only about half of polled workers used all of their sick leave in 2017.

There is so much focus on being productive and pushing past limits that we do not take care of our bodies as much as we should. And, of course, staying home when sick protects others in the workplace.

One side of the story is that people cannot afford to take time off. Although some states have adopted laws for providing sick leave, the US does not have any federal requirements. How are we supposed to promote healthy practices if employees have to suspend their livelihood in order to take care of themselves? The idea of sick leave is especially relevant during the winter months, and even more so when there are widespread illnesses in the headlines.

Colds, Flus, Coronavirus, Oh My

According to the CDC, the current immediate coronavirus risk for the majority of the United States is low. Even so, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Elected and health officials are closely monitoring the situation and preparing for an increase in cases, so the data is readily accessible and frequently updated.

The CDC has released guidelines for businesses during these early stages of coronavirus, many of which overlap for other types of flu. One of the most highly recommended actions is to stay home from work, which means employers need to prepare for absenteeism. On a larger scale, we need to consider a cultural shift to widespread support of employees staying home when they are ill.

How can you make sick leave work for your business?

Sick leave is not a straightforward issue. You want to optimize the results from your employees, but guaranteeing time off might not seem like the most practical option. In the grand scheme of things, though, people who are not afraid of penalties for taking time off are likely better employees.

In our office, we are adamant: If you are sick, stay home, rest, recover. This means employees are more likely to recover fully and return to work ready to go, and other employees are protected and able to continue operations as normal. Maybe you cannot immediately change your current policies, and need to take gradual steps toward a similar supportive model – perhaps by cross-training employees, modeling workplace health among leadership, communicating openly and creating clear policies for sick time and remote work.

At the very least, we should think about being prepared. Under the current circumstances, there is an increase in information about proper responses to health concerns. Now is the time to address our workplace policies and think critically about the best practices for long-term business—and employee—health.

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