Sometimes it’s hard to know if we have valid reasons to call in sick. At the first signs of a cold (you’re stuffed up, you’re achy, you’re tired all the time, your bed looks especially appealing…) do you instantly call your boss and say you’re not well enough to work? Or are you the suffer-in-silence type who attempts to get some work done in between sneezes? We’ve all said it before: I’m saving my sick days for days when I feel better. We hate calling in sick to work, and truth be told, if we stayed home every time we got the sniffles, we would be spending a LOT of time on our couch. In fact, recent reports show that “Up to 40% of lost time from work is due to the common cold, totaling about 23 million missed days per year.”
That’s a lot of used tissues and reruns of Friends at 11am. As the winter season approaches and brings with it colder weather and germs galore, it’s important to know when it’s time to call in sick. Sure, it’s tempting to tough it out, but is going into the office really the best option for you or your colleagues? No one wants to get sick but unfortunately no one is immune to illness. The trick is to first understand your symptoms and then make an educated decision if you are well enough to work, or if you should be quarantined until further notice. Here are 10 signs that you have a call in sick excuse to roll with.
You have a fever.
A fever is not only a great excuse to call in sick, but also your body’s way of fighting off infection, which is a pretty good sign that you have an infection in the first place. If you have a temperature of 100.3 or higher and you’re experiencing all the joy that comes with a fever — think chills, cold sweats, body pain — then your best bet is to stay home and rest.
You are vomiting.
Let’s be honest, the last place you want to be when you are puking up your breakfast is at work. And the last thing you want your coworker to be doing while you take a bathroom break is vomiting in the next stall. It’s not hygienic and it’s a sure sign that you or someone you work with is sick. Vomiting is definitely one of the most obvious reasons to call in sick.
You have a viral or bacterial illness that’s contagious.
It can be hard to know if whatever you are experiencing is, in fact, a contagious illness, or just a bad case of allergies/exhaustion/hypochondria. If you aren’t sure, go to your doctor to get confirmation about whether or not you are infectious. And if you want to keep your illness from spreading from desk to desk in your office, keep it contained by confining your germs to your home and calling in sick to work.
You are on strong medication that may affect your reaction time.
This is important on several levels. First, if you commute to work by car then you need to be careful when taking medication that may make you drowsy or slow to react. If the pill bottle warns that you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery, don’t assume that it’s a useless suggestion and heed the warning. Second, if your job requires you to be sharp and react quickly then you should stay home when taking heavy medication that affects your perception or judgment.
You have the flu.
Ugh the flu, otherwise known as hell on earth mixed with a side of fever and never-ending head-to-toe pain. It’s not fun. If you have the flu, chances are you couldn’t make it into work even if you tried. But if you’re superhuman and/or in denial of your illness, going to work could get your entire team (and most people you pass during your commute) sick as well. You need to keep your germs to yourself and devote your time to resting and recovering. If you have a fever, you’re experiencing aches and chills then it’s best to get some sleep and stay hydrated at home.
Your illness prevents you from concentrating.
Do you ever feel so crappy, so tired and so foggy that it’s basically impossible to focus on anything other than how bad you feel? We’ve all been there. If you’re not being productive then it’s a waste of time to go to work. Plus you risk getting everyone else sick for no good reason, since you’re not getting much done anyway.
You have no appetite.
Let’s be clear: just because you ate five slices of pizza last night and now you’re not all that hungry does not mean you should call in sick. But if you are unable to keep any food down then you run the risk of becoming dehydrated and malnourished. You will become weak and you won’t be able to fight off whatever illness is calling your body home. Best to stay home, rest up, hydrate, and save your energy.
You are putting other vulnerable coworkers or clients at risk.
It’s never a good idea to go to work when you are sick and might be contagious, but it’s an especially bad call if your work requires you to be in contact with a lot of people and if you work with people who are weak or unable to fight off germs. If you are a teacher, a doctor or nurse, if you work with elderly people or if you have physical contact with others throughout the day, be cautious and keep your sickness to yourself.
You’re attached to the bathroom.
This is one of the best reasons for calling in sick to work. If the toilet bowl has become your new best friend and you can’t stay away from the bathroom for long then it’s best to just stay home and set up shop in your own space.
You’re coughing, a lot.
If you’re coughing every five seconds then you are most likely going to distract your colleagues as well as spread your germs with every cough. You know how you feel when you’re standing next to someone who will not stop releasing a nasty, mucus-filled cough? You cover your face and run the other way, right? Do not be that guy! Stay home until your cough is under control.