Feeling Run Down? Here’s Why You Should Still Take a Sick Day Even if You’re Working From Home

Working at home - work office.
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The rise in people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in something else: more workers staying on the job even though they’re feeling sick. While many workers feel obligated to keep toiling away in their pajamas despite being ill — mainly because they don’t have to head to the office or job site — experts still recommend that they take needed sick days even when working remotely.

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But many aren’t heeding that advice. Two in three Americans say they are less apt to take time off for common illnesses when working from home, Axios reported last week, citing data from a study conducted by OnePoll. About 70% say they have worked while sick during the pandemic.

This is not confined to the United States, either. A Canada Life survey found that at least at one-third of respondents in the U.K. worked despite being unwell during the COVID-19 lockdown, suggesting that many employees are simply hard-wired to work through illness — especially at home.

The survey found that 40% worked while ill because they didn’t think their illness was serious enough to warrant taking off. Twenty-six percent felt they had too great a workload, and 25% didn’t want to pass off important work to a colleague.

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The reasons remote workers aren’t taking sick days are common pretty much everywhere.

“A common culprit is job pressure — feeling that you can’t step away because the work will pile up in your absence, or feeling concerned that others will think negatively of you if you don’t keep working,” Blaine Landis, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University College London School of Management, told Wired.

But there are numerous reasons you should still take a sick day when you’re feeling under the weather. For one thing, working while ill might only exacerbate the illness, meaning it might get worse and you’ll end up having to take more than one sick day to recover.

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Feeling pressure to show up for work even when you’re ill can also have a negative effect on your psychological well-being, and possibly lead to depression.

Finally, workers are not as sharp or productive when they are sick, and are therefore more likely to make mistakes on the job. The technical term for this is “presenteeism,” or showing up for work when you’re sick and not putting in your best effort. Studies from both the U.S. and Australia have shown that presenteeism costs more to the overall economy than absenteeism, Wired reported.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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