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Working While Sick

Sick Days & Working From Home….The Cure Of The Common Cold

There’s absolutely nothing worse than feeling terrible in the office. You have the cold shivers, the smell of food is making you feel sick and you have the worst headache. Meanwhile you colleague has just turned on the air conditioning unit; he’s eating anything he can get his hands on and is shouting on a conference call. This is indeed my living nightmare when feeling ill.

The office is a truly woeful place to be when you have a bout of cold or flu but depending on your role a sick day can you do more harm than good. I am personally proud to say I haven’t had a sick day in well over three years of work. There have been times when I’ve clawed my way to the end of the day feeling truly horrific but I haven’t had a sick day. Now this is nothing to do with me thinking or acting like I am a martyr, quite the opposite. It’s more to do with keeping your work on schedule and not falling behind.

The last time I had a couple of days off sick I rocked into the office to find 100 emails, numerous jobs which required doing and a lack of progress for the week. Now I’d just spent two days in bed attempting to get better to tackle the inbox of Satan. That was enough to make me feel sick again.

Due to the recession sick days per year are at a record low but in my opinion it’s still a substantial number. On average we have 4.5 days per year off sick per employee. Given there’s a vast majority who don’t have any days off then this for me is still a significant number. But how do we reduce this further? You guessed it….my favourite friend…..working from home.

The amount of sick days reflect on the management and culture of each organisation. If you are part of a large corporation who are very rigid and traditional to their approach then if you’re sick you’ll take a sick day. If you are part of a cutting edge, forward thinking organisation who allow more home working you are more likely to say ‘Hey Boss, i feel like death today so I’m going to grab the laptop at home’.  Which as an organisation would you prefer?

Granted the best cure would be to be at home in bed without any work in sight but for some this is not an option as it will mean extra work when they are healthier. By introducing a culture where ‘working from home’ is accepted you essentially open the door for workers to work from home when feeling a little under the weather instead of calling a full wash out sick day.

Why this works?

They’ll be HR departments throughout the world preaching that your ‘bed is the best place for you when sick’ yet counting the amount of sick days you have had. I remember at my previous organisation that they would ‘interview’ people after three of more days sick. Erm, where is the trust in ones work force? An interview to question your sick validity.

Granted there will be individuals who take the piss. But again this comes full circle and I question the recruitment process. Isn’t this the process which separates the men from the boys? Hire passionate, dedicated people and you’ll be fine. In digital jobs it takes 5 minutes to scan social profiles and web entities to see whether someone has a passion. Use what’s available.

There are so many reasons why allowing working from home for sick employees would work on the whole. You will encounter the minority who overstep the boundary but listen; the benefits significantly outweigh the negatives. I’ve listened some below which fall at both sides of the coin. The change of dynamic MUST benefit both company and individual. Here’s a few:

Company Benefits

Removes the administration headache
Builds trust and gains respect from employees
Disease doesn’t spread to co workers
Another incentive to use for recruiting talent
Some productivity is better than none?
The individual is available given emergency

Employee Benefits

You can work from a more comfortable surrounding
You can wear what you want
You can sniffle, sneeze and look terrible and nobody will care
You can take a nap
Peace and quiet
You will not fall behind

Sick days suck

If you’re reading this blog you most probably give a crap about your job or in a role which you call a career. Sick days impact on all. The organisation will suffer, management will suffer and of course the employee will suffer. In the type of web based roles I speak of the work will still require completion so a sick day just prolongs this.

I worked through two days of feeling terrible this week. Absolutely terrible. One of which I had to lay on the sofa in the afternoon with my laptop on top of me because I felt that bad. I did however manage to tackle a couple of mundane jobs on my to do list which didn’t require much brain power. If I worked in an office I’d have most probably taken one of the days off sick given how I felt but by having the safety blanket of home work you can get things done despite a decrease in productivity.

Employees never want to get behind so why not give them the reassurance that working from home is available when sick? A half productive employee is better than no employee at all.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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