My Boss Hates When I Call In Sick

Crumpled Tissue
I almost (cough) didn't (cough) get a column (sniff) written this week (cough cough). I'm getting over a bout with walking pneumonia. For the past six or so days I've done nothing but sleep and indulge in a sadly appropriate binge-viewing of season three of The Walking Dead. (Rick for Governor!) I ventured out once to meet a friend from the East Coast for a simple breakfast, and felt like I'd run a marathon.

Given that this is my first experience not being a salaried employee, I hadn't dealt before this year with the lack of paid sick leave. For most of my career I had at least two weeks per year. I didn't always use it, but it was nice to have when I did get a flu or even really bad allergies. Nobody wants to hear you deliver the news on the radio with a stuffed nose, but I noticed there were no complaints on those days when my voice dropped to a raspy low-alto.

Why now?
This year, though, I've been severely ill twice already -- this is the third round. It's puzzling, because I'm no longer in a workplace surrounded by potential virus-carrying colleagues (you know that wind screen you sometimes see in front of a microphone? it's a petri dish!), and I'm pretty sure my dogs didn't give me this flu.

After I canceled plans with a friend this week, she wrote back and said, "Sounds like you are not taking very good care of yourself." But I am! I make myself healthy meals, I run, I quit a job that was causing me stress... and yet, I've been sicker this year than any other in recent memory. About five weeks' worth of work-stopping illness just since the start of the year. Uncompensated, work-stopping illness.

Hiding the hack
So now that I've struck out on my own, it takes a toll not just on my health, but on my bank account. Days I don't work are days I'm not paid. And for the first time in my career, that means I feel pressure to work while I'm sick. I'm trying to squeeze in a few Skype interviews for the book I'm writing -- luckily, I found an app that records the interviews on a split track so I can take out my hacking. I'm supposed to fly to Chicago next week to deliver a speech, and I'm really hoping this bug doesn't keep me from doing so because not only do I enjoy speaking, but the event (Chicago Ideas Week) is an incredible networking opportunity.

And of course, there's this column, for which I'm paid based on page views. I don't write it, I don't get paid. I can only hope it goes as viral as the viral load in my body. So here I sit in my green sweats in front of the computer, bellyaching to you about my head aching. Sorry about that (cough). But work is work, right?

Hope you're feeling fit as a fiddle. Share your stories of work without sick leave in the comments section below and email me at

And come back here every Wednesday morning for my next post... next week, hopefully, from Chi-town.
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