Summary of the article, “Parents, Take Your Sick Days” by Tim Sullivan April 14, 2021, HBR[i]
Reluctant to take sick days even when you need time off? Here are guidelines to ease the guilt caused by missing work.
How do you actually go about taking the time you need?
First, assess if you are well enough to work productively at home. Sometimes canceling meetings and video calls to work remotely and email, work on spreadsheets, or cold call in your pajamas for a day will give you time to feel better. Do not work while at home if your physical or mental state means your work will be below your usual standards. If you do work that is subpar, you will have to do it over again when you are feeling better.
If you do call in sick, be direct. You do not have to be elaborate about your reason: “I’m not feeling well enough to work today, so I’m taking a sick day. I’ll be back on the job tomorrow if I’m feeling better. ” Some organizations or managers may push back on this approach, but you do not owe them details about your health. If you have determined that you are not well enough to work, stay home.
Work with your human resources department or team to create a standard practice when it comes to feeling unwell. Try to agree that the standard is not to work when sick, period. That includes turning off email and group chats. It may be hard to do at first but renew the pledge and support each other when calling in sick.
Being sick may create challenges at home. Communicate clearly with your spouse or partner about taking care of each other by encouraging self-care when you are feeling fine. Sometimes taking a day off “just because you need it” — a concept that extends beyond simply not working - may include a break from childcare, errands, meal prep, and so on.
Tell your kids about your routine, so they can learn how to value their own health. Be straightforward: “You know that I would like to be able to work, but I’m not feeling well. It’s important to take time to rest so that you can feel better. ” Make sure to have a plan for childcare when your child follows your advice and needs to stay home.
Finally, remember the larger picture. If this standard — serious selfcare — becomes the bar for everyone, then we will all be supporting one another, at home and at work. That is as it should be.