Productivity v. Health

I’m sitting at work feeling the beginnings of a cold. Or is it a virus? Or the dreaded flu? Who knows, it’s just annoying. Swollen sore throat, sniffles, starting to feel flushed. Not good no matter what you call it.

Then I begin to notice I’m not the only one. Two co-workers complain of the same symptoms. Another is roaming the halls hacking out her lungs. So of course the debate inside my head begins, “Should I go home? Try to sleep it off? Or should I wait it out, perhaps feeling worse and staying home tomorrow? Can I stay home tomorrow?” Argh.

In the years I’ve worked in DC, it has seemed to me that people here tend to work sick. A lot. Even in this day of crackberries and easy work email access at home. Is this really just a DC phenom, or it is more widespread, more of a national problem? I hear people who, let’s be honest, are just not that essential (myself definitely included) moan and agonize about taking sick days. Why?

A co-worker once proudly boasted to me that he’d never taken a sick day. Not never gotten sick, mind you, just never stayed home. That man is the Typhoid Mary of the DC office world. I’m mystified.

What about you?

8 Comments so far

  1. Velvet (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

    The people who boast about working while sick are LOSERS! Why go to work and subject everyone else to your sickness too?


  2. Stacey (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

    Agreed. If I were a manager, I’d think to myself “I’d rather be one down today than five down next week.” That being said, I work sick all the time… mostly justifying it by convincing myself I’d be bored and concentrating on my sick if I stayed home…


  3. Heather (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    People who work sick are one of my biggest pet peeves – I send people home sick all the time, even if they don’t want to. My theory is: Don’t make your problem my problem!


  4. Jenn L (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

    Agreed on all counts! So, I went home, and am about to nyquil up and go to bed.

    My boss looked at me rather quizzically when I asked to leave, and then said, “Ok, feel better. See you in the morning.” I just love the subtext there.


  5. Tiff (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

    We have a very small office of 7 people, and we all answer each other’s phones, share food, etc. And we have jobs that require us to meet lots of people and shake their hands, many of whom have just come from the Metro. (ew! Metro hand!) So when one of us gets sick, that one is banished from the office until the others are satisfied that the person is no longer contagious. We’re also stocked up on antibacterial wipes and hand cleanser for such occasions.

    We all make a good show of expressing our willingness to come in if it’s just a cold, but the fact is, we know our coworkers don’t want our germs, so usually we just get to stay home.


  6. Steph (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

    At our office, our “sick leave” and “vacation” are all lumped together in one “personal time off” account. So, if I stay home sick, I essentially loose one day (or g-d forbid more) of what otherwise would have been vacation. Basically, this PTO policy encourages us to come to work sick as dogs so we can take two week vacations later in the year. Bad Policy, bad outcome. Sniffles or not, I’ll see you tomorrow at the office!


  7. Don (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

    Steph, I dream of that sick policy. My employer got burned by a person at some point in the past so now our five sick days can only be used as gap days till short-term disability kicks in. Need a day because you have the flu? Use one of your 10 vacation days or work up some comp time afterwards. And working longer hours is exactly what you’re up for right after being sick, of course…..

    Otherwise it’s a great place to work. Odd how one bad experience can turn otherwise sane people nuts.


  8. Nikolas Coukouma (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

    Pedantic point: both the common cold and influenza are viruses.



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