Custard on – being off sick

The kids have all gone back to school, the germs are all mingled together, then the students all go back and the ‘Freshers flu’ breaks out. Boots swaps it’s displays of Hayfever medication for Cold and Flu remedies. Cold season is here.

I am an advocate of a fairly healthy diet, the occasional multivitamin and plenty of fresh air but you know, we all sometimes get the dreaded cold. What winds me up though, is our societies reaction to people having a cold. Workplaces make it so difficult when you take time off, you head to Boots and buy the max strength cold remedy and turn up at your desk feeling like your brain is seeping out through your nose. You are not working effectively, as one of those wonderful things about a cold is how much it limits your brains functions as you are all stuffed up. Add to that you are spreading your germs around your workplace, so you put all your colleagues at risk of catching it too. Plus you are so tired that it takes you twice as long to get better, so you are unproductive for much longer. If you do dare take a few sick days, you feel guilty, you probably check your emails or do some work from home to make sure you are not too far behind when you get back into the office.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could just say “I have a cold I am staying at home for a couple of days til I feel better and so I don’t pass it on to everyone else here. I am going to sit on the couch, watch netfix, cough, sneeze and blow my nose to my hearts content without fear of someone saying “Oh stay away, I don’t want it”. I will drink honey and hot lemon, suck Lockets, have an afternoon nap and then when I get back I will be better”. But no, you are seen as weak if you take time off.

Many workplaces also have these policies where you can face disciplinary action if you have too many days off sick. Now I can understand why such policies are in place, I have been a manager for long enough to know that some people take the piss in regard to ‘Pulling a Sickie’. However, making you feel guilty about having time off sick is going to lead to more stress and ultimately that leads to you taking more time off sick. I know somebody who had to take time off work as they were hospitalised with pneumonia. If you have had pneumonia you will know it takes some considerable time to get better and then it leaves you prone to chest infections in the future. However, due to guilt and pressure from management they were encouraged to come back to work quicker than they should have done, they continued working through chest infections and when they finally had to take time off were then dragged in front of management and told if they took more time off they would face disciplinary action – not a good (or fair) prescription in my opinion.

A bit like everything in life taking time off sick should be treated with the phrase ‘Don’t be a dick’. If you are sick then you’re sick. Take a few days off if you really are not well enough to be at work and then you don’t spread it to your workmates (that’s a bit dickish). When you feel better go back to work and catch up as best you can. Don’t be a dick and throw sickies, it just ruins everyone else’s chances of actually having time off sick when they really are sick. Support your colleagues if they are not well, cover for them as best you can and be empathetic. Do not worship people who turn up for work when they are too ill to be there, send them home for all your sakes. Do not make them feel guilty. Do not say “man up, it’s just a cold” we’ve all had a cold and we all know how crappy it can make you feel.

I reckon if we all did this then ultimately we’d have less days off sick and we’d be more productive. We wouldn’t feel so guilty that we’re ill that we feel we have to check our emails rather than sleep and get better. So go out there, be nice to the sicky ones because you never know when it’ll be your turn. *blows nose*

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