With our busy lives, hectic schedules and constant demands on our time, most people’s answer to this question is going to be “no” regardless of how they are feeling. And in some cases, that may be fine. But the actual answer of whether you should or shouldn’t stay home from work when you are sick is a little more complicated.
Consider several things when you are deciding whether or not you should call in sick.
- What are your symptoms?
If you have a fever, you are contagious, pretty much regardless of any other symptoms you have. So if your temperature is anything higher than 100 F, you shouldn’t be going to work and exposing everyone else to your illness.
You should also look at other symptoms you might have. Are you coughing a lot? Are you vomiting? Certain symptoms are just not conducive to working and it will be better off for everyone (most importantly yourself) if you stay at home and recover. Among these symptoms are:
- Moist and frequent or persistent coughing
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Rash AND fever or a rash that has been diagnosed as contagious
- Exhaustion – if you are too tired to get out of bed, you won’t get much done at the office
- How are you feeling?
If you are feeling so bad that you are not going to be productive, it is worth it to stay home. You will recover more quickly if you stay at home rather than pushing yourself to make it to work where you likely won’t get much accomplished anyway.
- Do you have any sick leave?
It’s terrible that this question even comes into the mix, but it is a reality for most people. If you have the sick leave, then take it. If you don’t, then that question becomes a little more difficult. There are certain instances where you just can’t be at work, regardless of whether you have any sick leave or not. But if you just have a common cold or other minor illness that is probably not the case. Unfortunately for this question, you just have to use your best judgment and decide what is right for yourself and your situation.
- Are you contagious?
If you have been to the doctor and diagnosed with an illness that is contagious, you really shouldn’t go to work and expose your coworkers and other people that you might work around. While colds are definitely contagious, they generally don’t cause much harm in most people. However, if you work around or will be exposed to infants, older adults or people with compromised immune systems, you should not go to work with any type of illness that might be contagious. Even minor illnesses can cause serious problems for these people.
- What is your occupation?
If you frequently work around a lot of people, this should come into consideration when you are trying to figure out if you should stay home from work when you are sick. You are less likely to spread your illness if you work in an office where you aren’t around many people. However, if you come into contact with many people throughout your day, you will be exposing them to your germs. This is especially important to remember for anyone who works around people who are already sick (such as at hospitals or doctor’s offices), those who work with children and infants, the elderly and the general public. If you work in a service industry, such as a restaurant or a retail store, you come into contact with people (or the things they purchase) frequently and you never know what their health may be like.
The Bottom Line
Every illness and every person is different, so there is no clear answer about staying home from work when you are sick. You will have to use your own judgment about your symptoms and your body and decide what is best for you and those around you. This information is to help you know what factors you should consider when you are making your decision.
”Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work.” Stop the Spread of Germs 07 Mar 07. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services. 26 June 08.