Dealing with work when you’re sick

Once you’ve been in a company job for a good number of years, unless you’re exceptionally lucky, you will, at some point, have been accused of feigning sickness. You might not know about it, as accusers tend to prefer not saying these things in your presence. However, if you haven’t turned up to work on a particular day, you’re obviously not going to be present to hear it.

This happens for two reasons: the first of which, is the perception that people take ‘sick days’ when they’re not really sick. This is not as common as many would like to believe, but when it happens, often indicates a more serious problem with the worker, such as alcoholism. People who periodically call in sick when they have a hangover are possibly unaware that they may be alcoholics.

The second reason this perception endures is that people who call in sick themselves may feel guilty about it. If you’ve ever woken up exhausted and not been able to face going into work, you may be suffering from a number of serious problems, from sleep apnea to depression. You might make up an excuse when you call in – a bad back or a headache – and start beating yourself up about not having gone to work as the day progresses. The weak excuse you gave when you called in will go around the office and people will assume you are hungover or simply not committed to your work. Stress and work-related anxiety and depression often go unrecognized.

Of course, when you are sick, there are varying degrees of severity. If you are in an ICU, it’s pretty clear you’re not going to make it to work that day. But what about those times when it’s not such a clear call? The time you have been up all night with food poisoning, haven’t slept, but seem to be on the mend? Or those days when your body aches from head to toe, you have a pounding headache, but there’s just so much to do in the office?

Of course, the official policy, begrudgingly set out by most companies is that, if you don’t feel well, don’t come to work and seek medical help instead. This is mostly true if you have come down with cholera or tuberculosis. The unofficial policy of these companies is usually that, if you can walk and talk, you’d better get to work and get on with it like everyone else.

So how are you supposed to cope with work while you’re sick? The key is to be prepared. Have the medication, painkillers, lotions and other treatments you need. Try to change your immediate work environment to make it more comfortable while you’re sick. If you have a raging headache, ask if you can switch workstations with someone in a quieter part of the office, or move to where there is natural light instead of piercing, artificial light. If you’ve been up all night with the runs, make sure you have access to fluids and make sure your chair is comfortable. You might want to look at office chairs at Office Chairs Only to choose something suitable.

Depending on your condition, rat-race medication such as coffee may work well, or may have adverse effects. If you have a headache, palpitations or feel anxious, it is best to avoid it. Water, toast and a banana can provide the basic fluids and nutrients to keep you going through the day. If your stomach feels fine, eat fruit, fish and wholegrains to give yourself a healthy boost. Sugary sports drinks are often used by those with hangovers to replace electrolytes, but they can also cause an energy spike, followed by a dip. If you spend your day at a desk, these will just make you fat in the long run and leave you feeling exhausted as the day draws to a close.

Make sure you get some fresh air and natural sunlight every day and rest when you have the chance. More importantly, consider whether your job may be making you sick. If that is the case, perhaps it’s time to do something else with your life – something in which you won’t be judged negatively despite giving your best efforts, even to the point of jeopardizing your own health.