It's happened to all of us. You wake up feeling kind of woozy, achy or stuffy. You briefly contemplate calling it in to your employer, but you drag yourself out of bed anyway and start to get ready for work.
Sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. According to one study, up to 3 million Americans go to work sick each week.
Why do people go to work sick?
Why do such a high number of people avoid calling out when they're not well? Reasons might range from fear-based to self-interests. Some of the top reasons include:
- Afraid of what their boss might say
- Don't want to "waste" paid time off
- Have no sick time and can't afford to lose the pay
- Trouble gauging what is a serious vs. a minor illness
- Feel other people can't do their job
- Think it will hurt their careers
- Feel competitive against colleagues and want to keep up the pace
Unfortunately, whatever the reason for going to work ill, it can create a ripple effect in the workplace or harm oneself. Even if you really don't want to call in sick, there are many times you really should.
Avoid sharing germs
If you bring your germs to work, chances are you'll be passing them along to everyone. There are a couple of problems with this—first, colleagues who get sick from exposure will probably be annoyed and, in the greater scheme of things, if everyone at work gets sick, lower productivity tends to follow.
That being said, it's hard to stay out for the 7-10 days a common cold takes to run its course, but you also can reduce the risks of either spreading or catching a cold by following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's suggestions.
Colds that are ignored can lead to more serious illnesses. With the resistant bacteria out there—also known as superbugs—you could be sicker than you know. And anything more serious, you really don't want to spread around. Especially, if you have a fever or other unusual symptoms. If you do, just stay home or see a doctor before going to work so you don't inadvertently spread something serious around the office.
Dodge a total collapse
Continuing to work while you are truly sick could lead to exhaustion and/or a collapse. Consider the fact that when you're sick, you could be susceptible to further illness due to a lowered immune system. Other people at the job might be walking around with germs, and you could pick those up along with what you've already got. What might have been one or two sick days could turn into an illness that requires extended sick leave.
Productivity and quality of work suffer
Typically, when you're sick you're not at your best and this is likely to show in your productivity levels and your quality of work. Working while you're truly ill could negatively impact the way you are perceived, especially if you turn in low-quality work or can't keep up to speed. Don't let your professionalism suffer just to avoid a sick day. Call in, sleep it off and come back refreshed and ready to be on your A game.
If you are exhibiting symptoms such fever, severe body aches, headache, dizziness or gastrointestinal symptoms, it's best to stay home. Stay in communication, and be sure to let people know when you are not available as you heal. If you are able to function from home, let them know that too. When you're only mildly sick, but enough where it might be contagious or you tire quickly, you might be able to work from home and get at least something done. This could lessen any residual guilt you may feel for staying away from the office.