We wear our devotion to our jobs like a badge of honor. We’re afraid to take sick days and instead rally behind false beliefs that we can do it all. According to one study, 80 percent of people say they go to work when they are sick, even if their employers offers paid sick leave. We think carrying on is a sign of strength.
As CEO and Co-founder of meQuilibrium, my mission is to help people feel, do, and be their best at work and at home. And I’m here to say: Take your sick days.
When sick employees stay home, everyone benefits. Taking a day now may prevent you from needing to take more time off in the future. In fact, public health studies have found that there is a greater likelihood that employees who go to work ill will suffer poor future health and are more likely to require subsequent sick leave. In addition, you’ll keep your germs at home with you, which protects your colleagues. One alarming study from the University of Arizona found that a single sick person can infect over half of commonly touched surfaces in an office, and other employees face a 40 to 90 percent chance of infection!
While the benefits of staying home when you’re sick are clear, a Harvard-led survey on workplace and health revealed that in 2016 only six percent of workers used most of their sick days—and 32 percent didn’t use any. It’s time to change that. Here are three ways to make it easier to stay home when you’re under the weather—because we all deserve and require time to recharge:
1. Give yourself a reality check. Do this by confronting your Iceberg Beliefs around achievement and work. Iceberg Beliefs are big and mostly subconscious beliefs we have about ourselves, our world, and our future. Icebergs around taking time off for being sick would be like, “I must never give up” or “I should be able to do it all.” We think that the world won’t go on without us, that only weak people take time off, or that we’ll lose standing or respect if we actually dare to stay home.
Think about those internal “should” statements you have about work and achievement and confront them—ask yourself if they’re serving you or holding you back. Remind yourself that staying home actually enables you to do your best work, and the majority of managers are aware of that, with 86 percent of bosses agreeing that employees are more productive when they take a sick day to recover from an illness. Showing up sick also impacts your company, because when you’re not feeling well you’re more likely to be distracted at work. This costs businesses an estimated $150 billion every year.
2. Set clear boundaries. Instead of walking that fine line between accessibility and time off, be explicitly clear about your availability. Don’t try to check email from bed or attend a conference call from your doctor’s office. Be transparent about your plans: Tell your colleagues when and why you’ll be unavailable, and honor that plan. By adopting a proactive, open approach, you’ll feel less guilty about needing to take time out.
3. Keep your eyes on the prize. Still feeling guilty? Understand that by taking time off when you truly need it, you’re actually making yourself more productive, useful, and resilient. You’re improving your health and decreasing your stress levels, which not only make you more motivated—it might even improve your long-term health, according to the American Psychological Association.
Bottom line? We can’t afford to make ourselves sick over sick days. Taking action now will keep us feeling better later. That’s good news for our workplaces, our own physical health, and our peace of mind.
Jan Bruce is the CEO and Co-founder of meQuilibrium. A widely recognized authority on balanced, healthy lifestyles and sustainable living, Jan has a passion for building strong business strategies and cohesive management teams that deliver results. Find her on Twitter @janbruce