The Importance of Taking Sick Days

By George P. Linke, Jr., and Shlomo Z. Satt

As the weather continues to change, many of us are likely to feel ill at some point. Although a headache or runny nose aren’t likely to majorly impact our day, it’s important to take off from work if we are feeling sick. Often, taking sick leave is frowned upon and we tend to “power through” our ailments as a sign of strength. In fact, the University of Arizona reported that 80% of people go to work when they are sick, even if their employers offer paid sick leave. This attitude can have many negative effects on yourself and your co-workers. 

The simplest reason to stay home is preventing others from getting sick. Most work environments are limited in personal space, with interactions constantly occurring. Common surfaces such as doorknobs and copy machine buttons can become contaminated very easily, says the University of Arizona. To avoid infecting others at work, prioritize your own health and stay home.

With that being said, there is also another reason to rest at home. When we’re sick we need time to recuperate and for our body to heal. The Mayo Clinic lists several remedies for combating a cold, with the most important being ample time to rest. By ignoring symptoms and going to work, you will further the duration of the ailment.

However, there’s a reason so many people avoid taking sick days, especially in the US with the stigma about missing work. If you feel pressured to show up even when ill, understand that 86% of bosses agree employees are more productive upon return when taking a sick day, per HuffPost. Chances are the pressure is not coming from a boss or supervisor, it’s internal. Remind yourself that you need the time to heal, and that ultimately you will be more productive if you take off from work. 

From an employer perspective, if you want to encourage taking sick days, start by leading with action. Dr. Mark Friedman of First Stop Health says that employers need to be the “driving force behind a culture shift in their companies.” If you’re under the weather, make it known that you can’t show up. The message will be sent that personal health is a priority. Additionally, this includes maintaining a non-judgemental approach to employee sick leave. If an employee requests a sick day, grant it. The costs outweigh the benefits of a sick employee at work.

If you’re feeling better, it is important to know when it’s appropriate to return to work. In the typical case of a cold or flu-like symptoms, UCI Health has 3 criteria that should be met before returning: 

  • No fever for 24 hours, without fever-reducing medication.
  • No vomiting or intestinal issues for at least 24 hours.
  • Coughing or sneezing should be reduced and intermittent.

If these three conditions are met, then you’re safe to return to work! We hope that you will return knowing you made the right decision to prioritize your health and the health of others around you.

What is your attitude about taking sick leave? Have you ever felt pressure to show up even when sick? Has this article been helpful in changing your perspective? Continue the conversation here.

George Linke is the Founder and President for Linke Resources, LLC. Linke Resources has a demonstrated track record of placing well qualified professionals that advance the clinical and programmatic needs critical to an organization’s mission and financial health. Linke Resources has extensive experience serving organizations that provide service to people with behavioral health needs, intellectual disabilities, autism and various types of developmental disabilities. To learn more about how Linke Resources can make the hiring process efficient, successful and stress-free, call 610-873-4813.