For many of us remote work has a lot of advantages but what about the sensitive topic of taking sick leave?
It’s been almost a year since South Africa went into its first lockdown and the majority of employees heaved their computers home and started working remotely. With this came plenty of benefits such as flexible hours and less travel time, not to mention working in your sweat pants! But there are also downsides to working from home – taking a proper sick day being one of the more overlooked ones.
Up until 2020 staying home with the flu was completely normal. If you woke up feeling a little under the weather you would call in sick and stay bundled up in your house – I’m not looking at the diehard, come to work and cough-all-over-everyone kind of people. You didn’t have your PC or work laptop at home so you got in bed, rested, and came back to the office once you were feeling better. With the pandemic still very much with us, almost everyone has the ability to work from home and the lines are becoming a little blurred. Nowadays more staff are pushing through their illnesses and opting to slog away on the couch despite not feeling well enough to work.
Working while sick
Sickness presenteeism, the act of working while being sick, is becoming increasingly popular. Many companies will argue that if employees can still work without infecting others then they should. Some employees may even agree with this as working from home while feeling ill allows them to meet deadlines while not needing to make the exhausting commute to the office. They may even be able to work a half-day. Others, however, feel pressured to continue working despite feeling terrible. With less company interaction some fear that their managers won’t believe them or that the only sickness anyone cares about is COVID-19. Employees are worried about job security and want to seem committed above all else. This is not a healthy approach and research suggests that this may have negative effects on both the employee and the company in the long term. ‘Sickness presenteeism’ can mean that employees do not take the time to recover properly, decreasing their quality of work and negatively impacting both their physical and mental health.
Your health is your priority and if you feel that you are too sick to work it’s important to get some meds and take a day off to recuperate. You also have a responsibility to your company and colleagues and it’s important to tell them as soon as you are feeling unwell – whether by email, text or whatever channel your company uses.
You don’t need to go into every snotty detail but be clear on the severity of your illness, what your availability is or whether you will be online at all. A nasty cold can often take you by surprise but if you have a meeting or any deadlines coming up make sure that you communicate this to your team. Ask to reschedule appointments and delegate work where needed.
The bottom line
Everyone wants to feel respected within a company and stay on top of their workload so if you have a minor sniffle, feel strong enough and want to work from home go for it but be aware of the possible long-term effects of continually working through a serious illness. If you are feeling properly unwell, call in sick and take the time to recover, without feeling guilty for looking after your health. At the end of the day, just because it’s possible to work from home while being sick doesn’t mean you always should.
Words: Kate Turner | Images: Unsplash