The REAL REASON You Should Stay Home When You’re Sick
Updated: Apr 28
I’ve just spent three weeks recovering from the summer flu - ironically just as flu shot season starts! Too little, too late for Little Lata. I worked half days from home the first couple of days. Then realising it wasn’t just a head cold, took the next day and all the weekend off. But alas, the flu had hit me hard. And two weeks later, after two doctor’s visits, and a raft of home remedies and pharmaceutical potions, I had a cough I couldn’t shake, a croaky voice that sounded like a lifelong chain-smoker, and fatigue from sleepless nights.
Should I get sick?!
I’m a busy person, working both Change Management contracts and helping teams through restructures with my Reimagine You Training Program. But I take time to take care of myself - I eat fruits and vegetables, drinks stacks of water, exercise regularly, have a few vitamins, sleep 8 hours a night, don’t smoke, drink only occasionally, and spend time with my partner, my family and my friends. But I still get sick occasionally - which could have something to do with spending the first two years of my life in an Indian orphanage!
At a time when my immune system should’ve been building itself the fastest, I had undiagnosed asthma, lactose-intolerance, and was severely malnourished. So I got pretty sick pretty often as a kid, but it’s taught me a valuable lifelong lesson. It’s the real reason you should stay home when you’re sick. And trust me - it’s not what you expect.
But first, the other reasons...
I could harp on to you about all the logical reasons why you should take time off and stay home when you’re sick:
To avoid spreading the flu around your office.
To get better faster so you can get back to work.
To avoid “presenteeism” - being at work but being unproductive.
To stop you making stupid mistakes or decisions because you feel so lousy.
To avoid commuting on germ-ridden trains and catching a secondary infection.
To avoid driving when drowsy on cough medication.
To use up the sick leave you’re entitled to, because it expires at the end of the year.
To get better to take care of your partner, kids, family etc.
But here’s the real reason you should stay home when you’re sick.
You deserve it.
It’s as simple as that.
You deserve to put yourself first.
You deserve to rest and recuperate.
You deserve to take a break.
You deserve to honour your health - the foundation of your life.
These reasons aren’t logical. They are emotional. It’s about having the emotional strength and self-love to take care of yourself. Because dammit you’re amazing and we want to keep you around as long as possible!
What is your excuse?
We are lucky enough to live in a country where being sick doesn’t automatically mean not eating, losing your job, and losing your home. If you’re Permanent or Fixed-Term, you should have sick leave entitlements. If you’re Casual, you earn a loading to cover your sick leave. If you’re a Contractor, you earn extra to cover sick leave.
It’s up to you to be an adult and budget your money properly to cover your sick leave, to have a rainy day fund if you’re sick longer term, and to have some sort of income protection or something in your super or otherwise if things go really south. No one else is going to do this for you. You owe it to yourself to be ready to be sick (or injured), because bugs, illness and accidents DO HAPPEN.
Give yourself a helping hand
At the start of my Reimagine You Program, I ask the following questions:
Who here has ever worked overtime?
Who’s ever been stressed at work - not just for a day but for several weeks?
Why are we willing to put in longer hours, to work harder, to sacrifice our own time, to jeopardise our own health, our happiness, our relationships and our families… for work?
Work means different things to different people - it’s so much more than a paycheque. You’re anxious about your workload, how your team will cope, how it will look, how it might affect your performance. If these are real fears for you, it might be time to start looking at whether your current role is sustaining you or destroying you.
If you have a few days off, guess what?
Your colleagues will cope.
Your managers will cope.
Your customers will cope.
Your company won’t go bankrupt.
I didn’t take 3 weeks off. I took off 3 days a week and worked from home the rest of the time, going into the office only 2 days to run workshops for my projects (but only after I was no longer contagious!). I am lucky to be working in an organisation with leaders who encourage flexible working, wellbeing, and technology that helps you work from home easily and effortlessly. But if I reflect back on every place I’ve ever worked, I’ve always had these things. Whether it’s been corporate or government, big business or small, I’ve attracted roles and leaders that allow me to take care of myself when I need to. It’s not luck. It’s intention.
How can I help?
If you feel guilt or anxiety about taking time off from work when sick, get in touch (I am a coach after all!). But do me a favour and get help when you’re FEELING GOOD, not when you’re in the throes of flu.
And if you don’t have sick leave, earn extra loadings, or have flexible working options, and you want these things, get in touch and I can help you to find a role which does. Why? Because you deserve it.
I'm Lata Hamilton - Change Leadership and Confidence expert, Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, and the creator of the Leading Successful Change program.
If you'd like help setting your boundaries and building your self-worth, grab my free Underpaid & Overlooked Coaching Action Guide - download it here.