Getting a cold is stressful. Not only because it makes you feel rubbish and prevents you from doing the things you want to do but also because it creates something of a moral dilemma when it comes to whether or not you should head into work. Sometimes this decision can actually get quite stressful…
On the one hand, going into work is the conscientious thing to do, it will look better and depending on whether you get paid sick leave it might mean more money. Counter to that argument though, going into work could make you ill for longer, you probably won’t be able to concentrate and do your best work (you may even make a serious mistake owing to tiredness) and you might make other people ill. Even if you can face a day at work, you also need to think about the commute in which could be just as hard work…
So to help you decide, let’s take a look at some of the factors…
Will You Be Productive?
Did you know that 60% of health costs for employers come from a lack of productivity on the job? And that accounts for more costs than if those same employees had just taken the day off of work.
So before you go in, ask yourself whether you’re actually going to be productive. Do you have pressing work that really just can’t wait? Is your job easy enough that you can relax while working?
The other question is, will going into work make you worse? If so, then perhaps you’re better off having one day off and then working properly, instead of having a whole week of only getting half your tasks completed…
Are You Contagious?
The biggest damage you can do to your workplace is to go in and end up infecting everyone else there, thus dramatically impacting on the productivity of the whole workforce.
Whether you have a fever or just a common cold, then your suffering will have been caused by a virus. Unfortunately viruses are highly contagious and can spread via the air. If you cough in the vicinity of someone you can very easily give them a cold.
What’s also important to remember is that different people can react differently to the same cold. So you might think that you just have ‘the sniffles’ or that you’re otherwise well enough to go in, but this could still lead to you infecting someone with a cold that renders them completely unable to work. Thus even a minor cold is not worth going in for.
The only time not to take time off of work is if your cold symptoms are actually the result of an allergy – as the two can be easy to mix up. It can sometimes be tricky to tell if you have a cold or an allergy, but if you have a cough then this is a good sign that your symptoms are the result of a viral infection. If you have itchy eyes along with your symptoms on the other hand, then it’s probably allergies.
Note that if you absolutely have to go in, you become less contagious towards the end of an illness. At this point the virus may already be driven from your system and it might just be your body’s defences causing the sneezing and other problems. It’s still not ideal, but if you’re determined to head into work still, waiting until the end of your illness might just be the best strategy.
Another reason to take time off of work is that it’s important for your health. Even if you can work in your current condition, that does not necessarily mean that you should and ignoring your symptoms could lead to you getting worse and might even result in you catching other illnesses. Your immune system is weakened when you’re ill, so if you travel on the bus with other spluttering people you can end up getting other serious infections too.
And without meaning to cause unnecessary alarm (apologies to the hypochondriacs reading) this can actually sometimes result in complications. A viral infection is no small matter – if it makes it to your brain it can result in serious brain damage. Listen to your body and take its warnings seriously!
There’s Never a Good Time to Take Off Sick
There’s a good chance that as you read this, you realise that I’m advising you to take time off work in the vast majority of situations. Now you’re probably thinking that you know that makes sense… but there’s a good chance you’re not going to do it.
Why? Because there’s that important meeting tomorrow, or because you’re trying to impress the new boss, or because you have a huge to-do list that isn’t going to tick itself off…
In other words you’re probably thinking that this case should be the exception to the rule and that now just isn’t a good time to take off of work.
But the point is that you’re always going to think that. There is never a good time to take off work and you’re probably always feeling as though you have a huge mountain of work to do.
In fact there’s a very good chance that this pressure and intensity is actually what caused you to get ill in the first place. And now you need to take a long look at your priorities. Can you really not justify taking a single day off of work for the sake of your health? Because if not, then there’s probably something very wrong with your work/life balance. This would be a good place to start changing that…