You're really sick.
But do you take a sick day?
There are many reasons not to call in sick. Coughing, hacking and filling your cubical with used Kleenex are great ways to show your managers that you put your job ahead of your health.
It's also a great way to contaminate your dear co-workers. When they start dropping like flies, the company will realize how much they need you.
If you do decide to ask for a sick day, how does your boss react? Is the response sympathetic or skeptical? Are you told that management trusts you completely, but just for fun, send in a blood test, an x-ray and a letter from the emergency room team at the Mayo Clinic?
According to Steven Kurutz in his recent article in The New York Times, we are experiencing "The Death of the Sick Day."
It isn't only that bosses have become less sympathetic and more heartless, though, of course, they have. As Kurutz explains, "The shifting definition and expanding mobility of the office — thanks to remote work and the rise of contractors in the gig economy — is also making the sick day somewhat passe."
Email, the internet and the smartphone deserve the blame. These techno-tools have untethered you from your desk. Now that you can work everywhere, it's difficult to claim that you can't work anywhere.
"Even if you take a sick day, you're emailing in the morning, checking in later in the day," says Kit Warchol, a market executive at an online coding school, Skillcrush. "It's become more of a norm to write to your colleagues and tell them you're working from home."
The home part of working from home is terrific. You're in your jam-jams. You're binge-watching "The Proposal." You've got a Red Baron Thin & Crispy Pepperoni Pizza in the microwave.
It's the working part that stinks.
As Kurutz rightly points out, your company has certain expectations of a sick person, including "being available to check and respond to email, hop on a conference call and generally be productive, even if you feel lousy."
Even a gung-ho employee like Warchol can run afoul of the working from home option. When she came down with a cold, a few weeks after starting her job, she was "writing in the morning, when I was fully awake and had just taken Dayquil. Then, in the afternoon, I would let my team know ... I was going dark for a bit."
(Clear out the medicine chest if you declare yourself working from home. For you to produce any work while sick will require Dayquil, Nyquil, Lunchquil, Afternoonquil and IDon'tWantToMissEllenquil.)
Of course, your real problem in being productive when you are sick is the fact that you aren't very productive when you are healthy. Announcing that you will be working from home will only bring more managerial attention on how little you do — at home or at the office.
Fortunately, in more forward-thinking companies, the sick day is being replaced by the "Personal Emergency Day."
With a PED policy in force, you don't have to sell your managers on the severity of your stubbed toe. According to Mark J. Marsen, the HR director for Allies for Health & Well-Being, a personal emergency day means "you're not able to work today because of some circumstance."
"Some circumstance" could be a bad cold or a sick child. It could also be an indefinable feeling of ennui over the bottomless insignificance of your life.
If your managers balk at the idea of using a personal day for personal reasons, explain that disconnecting from your job even for a day will leave you refreshed and recharged, a concept that is held by many workplace experts [well, me.]
Warchol appreciates the privilege "in not having to take sick days because you can work from your bed." In a previous position as a barista, "working from home wasn't an option."
To which I can only respond — why not?
Replace your clock radio with an espresso machine. If you decide to call in sick, stay in bed and start making triple goat's milk lattes. Drink as many as you need to firm up your decision to stay home — five or six should motivate you to your mountain bike so you can hit the trails, or to your couch so you can hit the remote.
Above all — stay healthy.
Being healthy is the best way I know to really appreciate a sick day.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at creators.com.