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Should You Go to Work When You're Sick?

Updated on December 9, 2017
SMD2012 profile image

Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

The answer is almost always no.

Are you feeling sick today but you absolutely must go to work? There are some things that you can do to preserve your energy, be somewhat productive, and avoid spreading your germs to your co-workers.

Sniffling and sneezing at work is not cute, unless you are a teddy bear. Consider the health and well-being of the people you work with before you decide whether or not you should go in to work.
Sniffling and sneezing at work is not cute, unless you are a teddy bear. Consider the health and well-being of the people you work with before you decide whether or not you should go in to work.

Read this first if you are sick and wondering if you should go to work.

If you have a viral infection or other type of contagious illness that can be passed on to others, use your paid sick days and stay home. You may feel like you are letting your boss down or passing your workload off onto others but most people would rather not work near someone who is sick and infectious.

People with highly contagious diseases such as the flu, measles, mumps, chicken pox, pink eye or any other critical illness that has been identified as part of a pandemic, should absolutely not be going to work. If in doubt, call your doctor, hospital, or other health authority for more information.

If you work with vulnerable populations such as seniors, children, and anyone with compromised immunity, you should not be going to work when you are sick..

You should not be going to work if your ability to drive, operate equipment properly, make sound decisions or be alert in hazardous situations is impaired in any way. Stay home and don’t put yourself, your co-workers, or your clients at risk.

Unless your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, you really shouldn't go to work when you are sick.
Unless your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, you really shouldn't go to work when you are sick.

The tips and suggestions in this article are for information purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional for questions relating to your health and medical concerns.

Does your employer require you to provide a doctor's note when you take a sick day?

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Have you ever done this: Pushed yourself to go to work even though you were feeling as sick as a dog? Were you afraid that if you didn’t show up to work you’d lose your job, fall behind or get yelled at by the boss?

Some employers insist that workers provide a sick note for taking just one day off of work. Unfortunately, that means that many people would rather go to work sick for one day than have to spend their day sitting in a doctor's office with what they think is just a common cold.

If you're worried that you can’t afford to miss even one day of work and your doctor won't give you a sick note, here are some tips to help you make it through the day when you're feeling ill.

1. If you do decide that you're well enough to go to work without making other people sick and your reflexes and mental alertness aren’t hindered, be prepared to defend your decision to show up to work feeling sick. Although your co-workers may be glad that you're there to pick up the slack and do your part, don’t be surprised if your co-workers also avoid you. They don’t want to pick up your germs and get sick themselves – they're likely worried about their own job security, too.

You may even be sent home by your boss if he or she thinks you are too sick to be at work. Keep in mind that making the decision to go to work when you are sick is a reflection of your judgement and may actually give your boss a negative perception of your ability to make good decisions and be considerate of others.

2. Be a clean freak. Don’t spread your germs. Wash your hands frequently; wipe down your desk and phone with a sanitizing wipe. Use your own phone and don’t touch other people’s phones, pens, keyboards or other equipment.

3. Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that by coming into work under the weather, you're not going to be as productive and full of energy as you normally are. Set realistic goals that you can accomplish. Prioritize the tasks that need to get done and leave the other tasks for another day when you're feeling better.

4. Save your energy. Sit down and try to get comfortable at your desk. Group your tasks together so that you're not running to the photocopier every five minutes and bumping into other people. Anything you can do to conserve your energy will keep you from making yourself feel even worse.

5. Stay hydrated and eat a wholesome lunch and snacks. Sip a cup of herbal tea, water or vitamin-C packed juice throughout the day to stay hydrated.. Feed yourself well throughout the day with vitamin and fluid packed foods such as low sodium chicken or vegetable soups, watery fruits, a fresh salad with juicy tomatoes. Avoid high salt, high sugar processed foods.

Keep your hands to yourself when you are sick.

Keep hand sanitizer and tissues close at hand if you absolutely must go to work when you are sick. Don't shake hands with your customers and co-workers.
Keep hand sanitizer and tissues close at hand if you absolutely must go to work when you are sick. Don't shake hands with your customers and co-workers.

© 2012 Sally Hayes

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  • Woodmckinney profile image

    Amanda 4 years ago from Maryland

    Thanks for the great hub!

    I am going in to work tomorrow... After 3 days of vacation. My employer and I are on weird turf right now, so I am just going to pack some apple juice, tea, and soup.. We'll see how it goes!

  • SMD2012 profile image
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    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @SkeetyD Hope you are feeling better now! Thanks for your comment!

  • SMD2012 profile image
    Author

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @Lipnancy I don't think it is, but I too have gone to work sick. Unfortunately people are so afraid of losing their jobs that they risk it. :(

  • Lipnancy profile image

    Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

    Is a days pay ever worth staying at work sick? But I must confess that I worked many days while I was sick.

  • SkeetyD profile image

    SkeetyD 5 years ago from Barbados

    Awesome hub. I am in this exact position right now actually. Good advice