Don’t be a hero, buck the culture of going to work sick.
When I am sick I feel like a wimp. It’s true, I don’t like being sick. But when I am I prefer to curl up in my bed and do as little as possible until I feel better.
When I was an RN, it was very important to stay healthy and not go to work ill. Can you imagine how my patients would feel if I was caring for them while sneezing and coughing in their space? The logical belief many have is that medical professionals are encouraged to take time off if they’re sick. The truth is the medical system is like any other employer. Sick days are always mentioned in the yearly review. And not in a good way.
In North America’s work culture, we are trained to continue working and doing other activities when sick as if nothing is wrong. Many European countries think we’re quite mad for not looking after ourselves and demanding the employer do the same. For many employees in North America though, a hard line drawn in the sand – if you don’t work you don’t get paid. For others that are fortunate enough to work with great sick benefits, it’s frowned upon if you take a sick day. So if you show up to work sick, your co-workers aren’t impressed. And if you stay at home, your sick days are brought up in such a way to instill guilt. Companies have abused this ideal in the past by firing people for taking more than the allotted sick days. Now thankfully this practice is against the law. But some have found other ways to penalize the employee that has taken ‘too much’ sick time like withholding promotions or not allowing a transfer until you have claimed no sick time for 6 months in a row.
The fact is when we work while being sick our performance is negatively effected. We make more mistakes and don’t get as much accomplished as when we are well. Pretending good health isn’t good for our health. Our body is using energy to fight the war on the invading virus or bacteria. Trying to live life as if we aren’t sick uses energy that would otherwise be used to fight the illness and therefore places extra strain on our heart and lungs, potentially prolonging the illness, or worse causing death.
Recently an acquaintance of mine died from H1N1. She was only in her early 40’s, very fit, and very healthy. So why did a young active healthy mom die from a flu? She continued to work and maintain her life as if she was well instead of taking the time out to care for herself. When she did seek medical help, it was too late. The bug overwhelmed her defenses and she succumbed to the illness.
I’m not saying we should give in to every little headache or muscle pain. But let’s be more reasonable. Take care of our mental, emotional and physical health by being around positive people, work in a place you like, think positively, eat healthy and exercise. These things keep you healthy. And when you have the misfortune of being sick, I suggest going against the norm and look after yourself. Be courageous, buck the system but don’t be a hero and go to work sick. No one loves that kind of hero.