Sick? Stay Home From Work, Please!

Despite getting the flu shot, regularly spraying your desk with disinfectant and using hand sanitizer every hour, you're sick. Sometimes it's just unavoidable. You can either use your sick leave ' which you were saving for a weekend getaway in the summer ' and fall behind on your work or you can stick it out and go to the office. Tough choice, right? Wrong

Stay at home.

No good will come from you dragging yourself to the office and attempting to work like nothing's wrong.


Sick employees might be able to clock in, but that doesn't mean they're working at their best. It's the phenomenon of sick employees showing up for work even when they need to be at home: "presenteeism."

Some researchers attribute the recent rise in presenteeism to changes in work environments over the last several decades. Some employers don't provide paid sick days and others only provide paid time off (PTO), which doesn't distinguish between sick leave and vacation days. The latter has resulted in employees planning their vacations around PTO, then not having days left when they unexpectedly get sick, says Aaron Witsoe, president of Creative Business Resources, a human resources staffing company.

Think About Your Co-workers

Remember what it's like to hear the guy in the next cubicle sneeze, wheeze and sniffle every three minutes? Not only is it annoying, it's a constant reminder that germs are flying all over the office. You don't want to be that guy. As bad as you feel now, imagine how you'll feel when everybody else is sick and angry at you for infecting them.

Even if you're worried that staying at home means burdening co-workers with your duties, forget about it.

"In an office, they'd work a little harder if necessary than have someone sick around," Witsoe says.

Think About Your Boss

Many employers are also aware that a sick worker can send the wrong message to the entire office. If employees feel as if they are expected to work even when they are ill, they assume their health and well-being are not company priorities, Witsoe says. "Employees who don't feel valued are also less likely to perform at a productive level," he adds,

You should also remember that working when you're sick means not performing at your best. If your work is second-rate, you don't want to hand it in to your boss. Rather than redoing everything when you feel well, why not just rest now, get better sooner and do your work right the first time?

Working From Home

Many companies are taking advantage of technology that makes working from home easier for employees. Ari Adler, director of public affairs at John Bailey & Associates Public Relations, finds little reason for sick employees to go into the office. "In our business, it used to mean staying at home and maybe fielding a few phone calls," he says. "But with the Internet, e-mail, cell phones and remote desktop access, there's little need for an employee to come to work and contaminate the rest of the employees."

Although these extras can be pricey for a company, they can be worth the expense. "We'd rather have one employee at home and working remotely than an entire staff sick and not working up to par, either at home or the office," Adler says

On the other hand, Witsoe advises sick employees to refrain from working at all ' even at home. "You can't heal if you don't rest. Working does not help you rest and recover," he asserts. He does, however, suggest working from home if the illness is long-term and you feel energetic enough to put in some time.

An exception to the rule, Witsoe says, is an important presentation or meeting that you can't postpone. "Rarely do we have a meeting with such magnitude that it can't be rescheduled." Unless you find yourself in one of these rare instances, do yourself (and everybody else) a favor and stay home.

Next: 10 Best Excuses for Calling in Sick >>

Copyright 2008

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