The Death of the Sick Day

For many office workers, “working from home” has replaced a day spent recovering under the covers.

Comments: 101

  1. The workplace always rules in favour of the employer.

  2. The hybrid of working from home probably slows the spread of disease by allowing the walking sick to stay home and heal. On the other hand an 85 year old woman recovering after her third cancer would normally be allowed to retire, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg built her own trap by refusing to retire when Obama was president and Democrats controlled the Senate. Now she must keep working until a path to a Liberal replacement emerges and that could be years.

  3. @Rick, RBG is an outlier. In all honesty, how many 85yo out there are still tackling Supreme Court workloads as RBG does? Arguably, she probably would have retired by now, but for the possibility that if she retires, it'll open up another seat for Trump appointees (which can be disastrous for the country for decades to come). To that end, I totally admire RBG for her hanging in there, for the greater good of the country.

  4. @Rick You ignore the fact that Merrick Garland was not given a hearing AT ALL. There is no guarantee that has Ginsberg retired, Obama would have been PERMITTED to replace her. The Senate could have held up HER appointment TOO. You are not making any sense.

  5. This article makes me sick. Americans work harder than any industrialized country on earth. We are afraid to take our vacations and therefore don’t. We are afraid to take sick days also and now we must work while sick. We have kids and are afraid to take maturity leave. All this in the greatest richest country in the history of the world. We are truly slaves to our jobs and it’s getting worse.

  6. Think it's time to reevaluate the "greatest richest" when this is how workers are treated by the minority with all the power and money.

  7. @Mickey For the record: The U.S. is not the "richest country in the history of the world." Currently, the U.S. is ranked 13th by moneyinc.com and 11th by usatoday.com: 1. Qatar – GDP: $129,726 2. Luxembourg – GDP: $101,936 3. Macau – GDP: $96,147 4. Singapore – GDP: $87,082 5. Brunei – GDP: $79,710 6. Kuwait – GDP: $71,263 7. Ireland – GDP: $69,374 8. Norway – GDP: $69,296 9. United Arab Emirates – GDP: $67,696 10. San Marino — GDP: $64,443 . . . 13. United States — GDP: $57,293

  8. @GiGi, I almost laugh when I saw Macau having the 3rd highest GDP. That tiny enclave has no industry and relies solely on casino business. The "GDP" might be high, but its denizens are far from rich. Be careful of just relying on "numbers" to tell you a full picture (which it rarely does, without considering nuances).

  9. this is crazy! if you are sick, you are sick! why do we constantly have to prove that we are sick to our employers? if you come into the office, you risk infecting your coworkers. i am tired of people hacking and spewing around me. we have children and elderly parents that we go home to.

  10. As a US office-based employee there were plenty of days I felt too sick to commute (1.5 hours each way by train bus) and be up and about in the office, so I used most of my sick days every year. Once I became a remote employee, I found that on many of those same types of days, I felt okay enough to work, since I didn’t have to wake up as early, dress the part, and commute for hours. I could wear comfortable clothes and make hot soup while staying on top of my work and conference calls. I rarely need to take sick days as a remote worker, which works so much better for me, my family, and my employer. (Actually, I’m writing this comment from bed on a rare day that I feel absolutely too sick to work.) I will say that now Germany, my new employer accepts sick and vacation days as absolute - no questions asked, no “just check email” expected - which is quite refreshing!

  11. @AmyB, I agree with you. Oftentimes, when we're "sick," it's just that we're not 100%, and the commute can make it worse. When we can recuperate at home, we can get better so much faster. And even if we might not be working 100%, it's still a "win" for the employers too since it's not a total loss of a body. For knowledge jobs (eg. high tech, IT), this has been modus operandi for a very long time.

  12. @tiddl Yeah,the employer tests you for drugs and alcohol to make sure you are not impaired. However exhaustion from double shifts,mandatory overtime,and On-Call Status without pay -then there's no problem-we are expected to be "team-players, in the employers vision of things. Being"sick" is a slackers attitude. So we come to work sick and contagious for the first day or two,and then stay home afterwards AFTER we've infected our co-workers (and possibly our patients.) This has been a problem at least from the early 1980's, when I began my hospital career ,which does involve direct patient care. (God forbid if you are a single mom,with a sick kid,and no sick-kid childcare options.)

  13. Like many businesses these days, I receive a fixed allotment of time off, to use for vacation or sick days as I see fit. Consequently, if I get sick and am still physically able to work, I’m going to work, even if other people get sick because of it. I am not a charity, and I am not giving away free labor to my poorly run company.

  14. “ ... if I get sick and am still physically able to work, I’m going to work, even if other people get sick because of it’” how charming ...

  15. Our business just went to PTO. It’s the dumbest idea ever.

  16. @Randall, Yes my employer offers me 6 weeks PTO (paid time off). I can use them however I see fit, and sick days come out of those 6 weeks. I can carryover 2 weeks to accumulate in the coming year. So, these days, I ensure to take at least 4 weeks off during the year. There really shouldn't be use-it-or-lose-it "sick days", and designated "vacation days". If you're out, you're out. It should be up to the employees.

  17. What exactly is intelligent about 24/7 always-on requirements when studies everywhere show higher productivity and satisfaction from well-rested and recreated people? What exactly ca be done better in a 14-hour day than in 8 hours? And how exactly does a drizzle-nose with headaches and fever contribute to the office environment? What is wrong with America?!?!

  18. @Eric Raw, unregulated capitalism makes masters of the rich and indentures servants of the rest.

  19. @Eric "What is wrong with America?" Essentially the answer to that question is: The utter contempt that we display towards the problems of others. THEIR problems can always be traced back to "personal choice" ,"lifestyle", and a lack of prudence,foresight, or willingness "to be better."

  20. @Mr. Louche But admit that sometimes they can be?

  21. I work at a large company, and have a team of direct reports. More often than not, when they're sick they will contact me to say that they are staying home, but will be checking emails & doing other work. I always reply that they should take the day off & rest, and NOT work - some employees (especially responsible ones that are great to have) just need their manager to tell them that it's okay.

  22. @cyndita, As managers, we should always build in some "slack" in the project to ensure that even if some folks are down and out, the project deliverables won't get impacted and delayed. That's what I do in general. It reduces stresses for everyone involved.

  23. Would that there were more like you.

  24. @cyndita As a manager, I tell my people "working from home" is not acceptable behavior if you're sick (unless its a genuine emergency). Now you can work from home for other reasons -- but working from home while sick is a recipe for being sick a long time and not getting well. I need well people giving 100%, not sick people giving 50%. We have a generous PTO policy at my company -- you're expected to use it. If an employee at the office complains about being sick, I send them home. We don't need 10 or 20 people sick. A few years ago, I decided to be a tough guy and was doing calls from home while highly ill (then I'd sleep for an hour). Stupid. Never again. Was sick for 3 or 4 days when I would have been better in 2 if I'd slept all day. When managers like me say "I'm sick and xxx is covering (or we're cancelling the meetings I was leading since great employees will be fine for a week or a month without any given meeting)" employees feel like they can take appropriate time when sick. Just like vacations -- managers should take fancy vacations and be out of touch for a week -- my reaction to my boss taking two weeks in Europe was envy. If we can live without the big boss for two weeks , we can live without any employee for 3-4 days. Or realize you have a major crisis where you are one lottery ticket or cancer diagnosis away from disaster.

  25. My employer considers my 12 yearly sick days as part of my compensation package so I make sure to use all of them because if I don’t it means I am giving them back part of my pay. There is no incentive not to use them as unused sick days must be forfeited.

  26. @heisenberg Right now I have over 1,200 hours of sick pay built up that I did not use (they will cap it in a little while, but I don't forfeit any). I won't get paid for it at retirement either. But it might come in handy if I get hit by a bus or something, so I don't complain.

  27. Unions people! The US is a capitalist free fire zone and these kinds of articles are an exemplar of the personalization of massively dehumanizing forces in the US.

  28. @Rickibobbi, Unions are not always the right solution, or even the only solution. I'm lucky enough to be in IT. I've been telecommuting for 15 years now. It can work if you have management who is willing to work with you, and if your job is measurable and goal-oriented that you don't HAVE to be in one physical location to get it done. But of course, if you work in a factory, or hospitality, or retail, for example, where your job *is* to be present physically, then it's a different situation. But those jobs are tough too, since oftentimes they are paid by the hour, so even if can call in sick, you won't get paid which is not something that some folks can afford. Maybe in those situations, unions could help. But then a lot of small businesses can't afford generous sick-days.

  29. @Rickibobbi , My husband, a member of a labor union in the building trades, does not get paid when he does not report to work. It does not matter the cause. Our financial circumstances unfortunately dictate how much time he can take off, even if he isn't feeling well. I am grateful we have a solid emergency fund these days, but many of his coworkers absolutely live pay check to pay check.

  30. @Sue In the bad old days, if a construction worker was killed on the job, his pay stopped as soon as he hit the ground. Unions changed that. Even a weak union is better than no union at all.

  31. No word on showing up sick and infecting others, including clients? No word from doctors on importance of really resting which you can't do "working at home"? No word from experts on properly rested employees recovering more quickly and being more productive? This article is like a trailer for a movie you can never see...

  32. @G - But doctors themselves come to work sick all the time. They know it's wrong, but the medical culture is such that taking time off, and thus burdening their colleagues, is just not acceptable.

  33. “Never before has the human race as a whole had to exert such efforts in its daily labors as it does today as a result of its absorption into the monstrous technical mechanism.” Jacques Ellul, "The Technological Society'

  34. The ability to work remotely has both enhanced and deprived us of our personal time. In many ways, the pleasure of working from home can be wonderful, as does the ability to leave early to attend to children and then finishing up afterward remotely. Even working from home while sick can be nice if one's concern is to avoid making others sick or to hasten recovery for other types of illnesses. That said, there does come a time when one really needs to turn off work completely if one needs to recover. I've had a few of those instances, where I grew progressively worse unless I just went to sleep and took a few days. Even then, there are many people that feel obligated to keep working, tied to their cell phones and some sense of duty. In the worst case, I am reminded of a person at a financial institution, and that person's father, a board member, had passed away. They were still taking calls during his wake, and this as not someone callous and uncaring. It was obvious the father's death greatly troubled them. I thought some people might see that as devotion, but it seemed horrible that they felt obligated to work as their father lay dead.

  35. @James Igoe My husband had open heart surgery a few years ago. The first few days after he came home were exhausting. He needed assistance with personal hygiene, etc, including assistance getting to the restroom at night so I stayed home with him. During the time I was off, I got a phone call from someone at work who knew my situation who HAD to have a list of names that I'd already given to someone else....the second person eventually found the list, but I just cried because I was so tired. Happily, my husband is in better health than he was pre-surgery but that situation sticks in my mind.

  36. Not buying it. The examples are classic "soft" jobs or semi-executive positions. What about people who move real things around real places to make real product? The closest the article came was a barista, for Heaven's sake.

  37. @Daedalus, Some jobs you can telecommute (eg. IT). Some jobs (eg. retail or hospitality), you simply can't work from home since it requires your physical presence. I'm in IT, and I've been working from home (telecommuting) full time for the past 15 years. It can work, particularly if you have management who value work-life balance for employees and is willing to work with you.

  38. @tiddl Sorry. The buzzword "work-life balance" has been updated to "work-life integration". It's more than semantics.

  39. I am fortunate enough to have a 100% work from home position with relatively flexible scheduling. Due to disability accommodations, I teach online. My sick days are like all other days - I simply schedule work around my symptoms. This means I may be asleep on a Friday and teaching on a Saturday. I recover from illnesses much faster than when I taught in a classroom. And I get fewer illnesses because my students aren't sneezing all over me. I thank God for this accommodation - but frankly I think everyone who can have such a benefit (the ability to work from home as needed) should have it. The whole society might be healthier.

  40. If you’re sick, take a sick day and don’t check in. There’s absolutely no reward for making yourself available at all times. Seriously. You’re just letting yourself be exploited.

  41. @Bubbles, It really depends on whether one considers oneself "exploited," or is it really out of "job insecurity" (which is not necessarily imposed on you by employers, but something that you do reflexively)? It would also depends on whether one truly enjoys one's work, or not. If it's something you like to do, I'd bet you would WANT to be doing it, even if you're not feeling 100%.

  42. The exploitation is very real, and while there’s no reward per se for working while you’re ill, there’s often a penalty for not doing so. Definitely refuse to be exploited if you can afford potentially to be marginalized at your company or ultimately to lose your job.

  43. I'm writing this comment, while working from home sick.

  44. I suffer from an autoimmune disease. I take medicine that lowers my ability to fight the common cold and all the other nasty germs found at work, the supermarket, schools, elevator buttons. So I get sick more often than my coworkers. When sick people come to work and don’t use proper hygiene such as coughing into their elbow or washing their hands, they put other people at risk, some more than others, like me. I’d love to wear a face mask and gloves but that would not be accepted as proper dress code.

  45. @KeL - I believe the mask and gloves would be considered a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would overrule any written, spoken, or implicit dress code.

  46. @KeL - Oops. Just noticed you're not in the US. I have no idea about the Turks and Caico - do British laws cover it?

  47. I've been telecommuting for some 15 years now. Yes, the flexibility is great. These days, you have most every tools you need to stay online and connected. It matters not if you're sick or just need time to run errands during the day, you manage your own time and schedule, and as long as your work is goal-oriented, clearly defined and measurable, it should be fine. And so, I haven't taken sick days for quite some time as well. If my workload is down one day, I can make it up the next day when I'm up and running again. Yes, working from home often means working longer hours. But if at least you can skip the time wasted in commuting, which means I can be at home all the time when my kids are around which I get less work done, obviously, but I can also be more "present," as a parent. And, I haven't had the needs to "dress up" for work for a very long time now. It does get lonely, and you'll miss a lot of water-cooler chatters can be very useful in networking. I would thus advise people not to telecommute too early on in their careers. Do it only when you have sure footing. If I were to go back, I probably would not do telecommuting all the time, but choose to go back to office 1-2 days a week. For all the great tools, they can never replace face-to-face interactions with your coworkers and teams.

  48. More and more companies have moved to PTO as a way to save money. We used to have 6 sick days, now they've added our vacation + 3 days sick time into "PTO." People who had dozens of sick days in the bank lost them. I hate it. I liked the old way.

  49. I was unsuccessful most of the day trying to reach a colleague—phone, mail. No responses after several messages. I was a little concerned for he was quite conscientious about responding to my calls. Late in the afternoon I get a call. The caller was very apologetic. “Sorry, I couldn’t call you earlier. I am at the hospital. My wife just had a baby.’” “Congratulations!” I replied, “Why are you even calling me! Please hang up. Nothing I have to say is more important than what you need to tend to.” Happily, the situation was tended to later without fallout. Some years later he has become a Director at his company. Last I heard, he and the ‘baby’ are doing well.

  50. It is completely unhealthy to never be able to take a sick day to totally disconnect from your job and recover. There is a saying that no one ever stated, when on their death bed, that they wished they had worked more in life. Quoting the head of marketing for a company called Skillcrush is the first clue that the author of this piece is out of touch with the majority of Americans who are literally sick and tired of this kind of nonsense. There is nothing normal or even humane to say that because of technology we are going to make people as miserable as ever, stealing every bit of their time. Sometimes I think we need to go back to basics....email should only be checked once per day, and employees should not be expected to check email after hours. If there is an emergency, the person sending the email should be required to actually pick up a phone and call the intended recipient. We would have a lot fewer emergencies and our employees would all be a lot happier and productive. Finally, using Justice Ginsburg as an example for this piece is both sloppy and lazy. The Justice is working for over 300 million Americans, in a saint-like way, because her heart tells her this is the correct thing to do and to protect the Constitution. This has nothing to do with the premise of the article, The Death of the Sick Day.

  51. @Mark Yes! Also: when you’re sick (and especially if you’re sensitive to OTC cold medications!) it’s impossible to maintain quantitative and qualitative standards. I have to wonder whether the work these people are doing while high on Dayquil will just have to be redone later, potentially by the same people they were so afraid of letting down. Plus, could the relentless workplace culture be what is making them sick in the first place?

  52. This article ends with: "“It didn’t matter if I woke up with a sore throat. I was there at 6 a.m. making people’s coffee...". How many people did that person make ill? Do you have to feed the cattle, will someone die if you are out of the office? Get over yourself. Recently, we had a colleague who recently kept coming in while fighting the flu. He would not see a doctor or stay home and rest. When he didn't come in, a wellness check found him dead at home. Extreme, yes, very, and unlikely, but true. If you are sick take care of yourself and expect others to help take care of you, not demand your presence. If you can't see that, I suggest there may be an underlying sickness in your organization and your perspective. Sorry to rant.

  53. It’s clear that many people can’t afford to be sick—can’t afford to take time off because they’re hourly, can’t afford to see a doctor, can’t risk losing their job because of unrealistic corporate expectations. I doubt that anyone truly prefers working when they’re ill, but humane allowance for some support is getting more rare. It’s more appropriate to blame the toxic greed that creates these problems than the people who are trapped by them.

  54. @Brant Serxner When I worked those foodservice jobs, I had to show up regardless of illness. Missing a shift for illness was not allowed unless you had a doctor's note. But when your shift starts at 5:30 in the morning, getting a doctor's note to excuse you from the shift isn't exactly an option. And even then, that doctor's note required a doctor's visit, which is costly.

  55. What are these "other industrialized countries" of which some people speak so fondly? The one where you show up regardless of your health (but please blow your nose only in the bathroom during an officially sanctioned break)? The one where the person you really need to see isn't available because that person will be out of the office for a week? The one where the person takes 2-hour lunch breaks including a quick game of squash? The one where worker benefits bankrupted the country? Or maybe one of those countries with a hidden underclass of imported third-world menial labor? It ain't great here, but it ain't that great in other countries either (excepting small northern European countries with vast natural resources. Their time will come).

  56. Before I retired, I was a freelance writer. I remember a notable day when I did the tech editing for my first book, which simply had to be done. It was going to press in under a month. I was working with the editor, answering his questions, while passing a 6 mm kidney stone which would eventually require surgery when it did not pass. I was in significant agony, struggling to explain a complex technical topic coherently while taking pain meds. There was no "day off." I was the subject matter expert! You just don't have the option to take the day off. The job has to be done and you do it. When you work for yourself, and make no mistake, freelancers are business owners, you work sick or well, or the project fails. I decided that tech book writing was not for me. I never wrote another. The book was a best seller.

  57. In my company they pooled what used to be called sick time, personal time and vacation days into PTO, Since I work at home, I never take a sick day unless I am really sick and can't even sit at my computer (except for the very last days when my wife was in hospice I think I've taken one sick day in the last ten years -- and being able to work at home and take care of her, take her to doctor's appointments etc, while saving my PTO for when I really needed it in the weeks following her death for our children, was very valuable). Even when I was in an office, telecommuting was an option if I had to stay home for some reason. Meanwhile with the change in time tracking I received an extra 5 or so days of vacation (I don't remember how many sick days we had) since my sick time is now PTO.

  58. Sick days never really made much sense to me. Paid time off is paid time off. What employers are really tracking is unscheduled time off. How many times does an employee call out from work unexpectedly. Throwing half of an employee's PTO into a negative performance indicator naturally discourages employees from using their full benefit. If I'm using a paid time off day though, whether scheduled or unscheduled, I'm not checking my email unless absolutely necessary. Time off is part of my compensation. If there's an emergency, you have my phone number. Use it. Working from home by contrast means exactly that: I'm getting paid to work even though I'm not physically in the office. Hence, no PTO hours. I don't use time off if I have to travel for an event or conference. Why is working from home any different? I'm more available from home than from a hotel room. Anyway, the best solution I've experienced was a rollover/buyback system. Accounting likes to get PTO off the books at the end of each year. It's technically a financial liability. Employees were therefore given the choice between rolling their unused PTO to a maximum of like six or eight weeks vacation. Alternatively, the company would offer to buy back your unused PTO at a slight discount. Eighty percent pay on the day I think. If you had two weeks PTO, you'd get eight days pay in return for ten days time off. A nice little cash incentive to leave your PTO untouched. You didn't see people calling in sick very often.

  59. Sick days are routinely abused. Everyone knows this. "I'll call in sick."

  60. @R. R. Sooo much better when the employer shafts everyone because of the person who needs a mental health day.

  61. @R. R. True, because US employees are routinely abused. Ask anyone who works in an unlimited, no questions asked, sick time environment with adequate vacation and social perks and job protection if sick time is abused where they work. Cooperation is not a one way street.

  62. Of course there will be people who will abuse any system. That is not a reason not to have a system in place like sick days that are mostly used by people who are really sick. You just put out this statement with no facts to support it possibly based on anecdotal evidence from your own personal experience. How do you know the people you may be referring to did not need what is called a mental health day? Everybody needs a rest sometime. Either way, we need more sick days for workers, not less.

  63. I work part time. I have no sick days no vacation days. I get 3.5 hours "personal time" a month but it may not exceed 21 hours. So I take vacations and nurse my illnesses without pay. Only in america

  64. My late husband was a teacher. He was very fortunate to be very healthy for many years and to also receive "sick days" which could be rolled over if not used. When he developed a very aggressive prostate cancer, he had almost enough accumulated sick leave for us to have a pay check for nearly a year. Yes, he did have disability insurance through his job, and yes, he did eventually qualify for SS Disability (he was 64 1/2 when he died). But I can promise you that it was the paid sick leave that did not leave us in a precarious financial position. We were very grateful for it. I have a chronic respiratory condition that makes me very vulnerable to any viruses or bacteria out there. I have now started using Kroger's "ClickList" where I order my groceries online and pick them up in the parking lot. Yes, I do pay a small fee for this, but with my Kroger (I think all do) having a walk-in health clinic right inside the store, I have no intention of unnecessarily exposing myself to sick people who will decide to do a bit of grocery shopping as long as they are in the store for the clinic. Sick people going to work or anywhere in public put those of us who are a bit more vulnerable in a very vulnerable position. I know that sick leave was abused, but in the end, that's far better than all the "Typhoid Mary's" out there, spreading their germs throughout an entire office or even a community.

  65. When my wife was told she would be working at home a year ago it was sold as 'saving you time and money,' commuter time and it's cost. But the reality is my wife ended up giving back that time each day by extending her hours. That is now changing. How? The solution was to construct a strict time controlled routine, 'turn computers on at 9am, off at 6pm without fail.' But the sick day dilemma remained (aided by the fact that she wasn't being exposed to the general population). The solution was to give her an office with a door that closed, not to be opened unless it is a work day. To successfully work from home you must have a routine and stick to it, period. And don't give them more than the implied contract of employment requires.

  66. @Jimmy I agree with your assessment that a structured environment in which it is strictly adhered to is the key. I am not very disciplined at home so this alternative would never work for me. I constantly find things to do instead of what my prime objective is, i.e., do the laundry, wash the dishes, make my husband lunch. I am the biggest procrastinator I know. Working at home for me would be a colossal goose egg. I need structure. I lack discipline. I need someone to kick me in the pants at times. I can find more ways and reasons to NOT do something than to do it right off, immediately, when the task is given to me. That's just my makeup and my DNA.

  67. If I have the flu, and especially if I take anything for symptom relief (which I almost certainly will do), I am effectively brain dead - there'll be nothing in there but a buzzing sound and possibly a few sentence fragments. On top of that, I'll be sleeping for at least 12 hours a day. The idea that anyone can function effectively with a flu is preposterous. And in all likelihood, I can thank someone who didn't stay home from work when they were sick for my misery. Sick days should be mandated for all employees in this country, without exception.

  68. @S. B. An analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that around 39 percent of American workers in the private sector do not have paid sick leave. Around 79 percent of workers in low-wage industries do not have paid sick time. Most food service and hotel workers (78 percent) lack paid sick days.

  69. I am an attorney and a (very well paid) hourly employee. It's my choice whether to work (and earn money) or not to. Thus while I wouldn't inflict my hacking cough on my co-workers, working a few hours a day on simpler matters from home makes a lot of sense. When you don't have to trudge out into a snow storm and can stay in your pj's, working while midly ill is just no big deal.

  70. I know a lot of folks who come to work when they are sick. Granted, it's not influenza or chicken pox, but even a bad cold or cough can spread like wildfire in an office setting. Some co-workers commend the sick employee for "toughing it out" and "taking one for the team" when they come to work feeling under the weather and are clearly ill. Frankly, I avoid those sick co-workers like the plague. The last thing I view them as is a "team player" but rather selfish and a moving petrie dish, spreading their germs from door handle to elevator button, not to mention telephone receivers. I try my best to not touch certain surfaces with my hands. I use the eraser end of a pencil to push elevator buttons, I wear a sweater and use my elbow to push down on door handles, and I wipe down my office phone and computer keyboard every morning, especially in the winter months when colds and flu seem to blossom like tulips in April. I realize I can't insulate myself completely from the sick people I encounter at work or on the commuter train, but I can at least do my best to keep myself healthy by eating fruits, veggies, hot soup and putting plenty of cognac in my evening coffee while sipping as I reading those Harry Bosch novels in bed.

  71. Another casualty of greedy corporate expectation. Not only are you expected to do the work of multiple people, you’re expected to be a machine with no human failings—like susceptibility to illness. (Ironic that being overworked only increases the chances that you’re going to get sick.)

  72. I resent people who drag themselves to office or school (I work at a college) no matter how many nasty bugs they may spread in their wake. If you are sick, stay home. Please.

  73. Our sick leave was rolled into our vacation. Now, our bosses get mad if you call out. You can schedule vacation. One can't schedule an illness.

  74. @Vinson Of course, most Americans don't take all their vacation time either. I"m not sure i've ever even used half of my allotment.

  75. Nope. I call in maybe once a year for myself, and maybe a couple times to stay home if my kids are sick. During that time, I shut off my work phone. They can talk to me on any one of the other 260 working days in the year that I'm available.

  76. Once upon a time, you had a backup. If you were sick, or on vacation, you left a voicemail (or an e-mail autoresponse) that identified your backup as the person to contact if something could not wait until your return. Now there is no backup person. There is probably no person that could be contacted in your stead that would have any idea of how to respond to that urgent request. I'm so glad I'm retired!

  77. Worked in government where there was a strict difference between sick days and annual leave (vacation) days. An employee with whom I closely worked boasted that he had not taken a sick day in 20 years, coming to work sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and generally sickening everyone who worked with him. Of course, those of us who worked with him became sick, and had to take sick days. Guess who management preferred? Typhoid Terry!

  78. By all means, let's continue to work. Work when you're sick, work weekends, work from home, from vacation, at night, in the morning. And when it's time to tighten up those corporate profits a bit more, you can be sure that having forfeited your life for work will account for nothing. But that's the curse of needing to be paid for a living. In this modern age, we're really moving back to a much earlier power relationship with our employers. Today more than any time in the last ~70 years, our employers have the power. Now get back to work, slacker peasants!

  79. This is not new. I last took a sick day in 1990. LOL.

  80. There aren't too many good things about getting older, but one definite plus is being liberated from the work force. I'd hate to be in my twenties now, looking at another forty or fifty years of "productivity." Marx called it wage slavery. He was right then, and he's right now.

  81. Here in SF we are the only part of the company that has been granted sick days thanks to the City and County of SF. I rarely use them unless of I need to take time off for a medical procedure that would make me incapacitated for several hours. That has only occurred twice. I will work from home to recover. The pattern i have noticed at my company since we are given the flexibility that most people when sick will work from home. Because the City and County of SF makes it mandatory for companies there to provide sick leave, they no longer hire in the Bay Area. The employees there are too expensive.

  82. I'll be honest, this describes my life. And I like the flexibility A LOT. Sick days were a source of anxiety for me- was I REALLY sick enough to take the chance of annoying a boss or looking like I have variable commitment? I far prefer working from home, laying dow and napping a bit here and there. I'm not as productive, but it's still getting the important stuff done. AND I'm not infecting everyone else or having to shovel my sad carcass into work attire and make up.

  83. This is a very sad and very disturbing reality for the worker in the United States today. You can thank the Republicans for doing everything in their power to decimate the labor movement, unions and workers' rights. Overworked and still never getting ahead because the cost of living is completely out of line with wages. Unending, disgusting greed.

  84. The workers checking in by computer from home in this article are not union-scale employees Publius. They are upper-middle class salaried employees, their jobs were never unionized. You need to wake up and realize we are in the 21st century now. Most union workers work in state and local jobs where their benefits are heavily protected by contributions to politicians. They get 2 weeks of paid vacation per year and retire when they are 52. All the other jobs that used to be unionized were exported to China and Mexico when Clinton was President; you can't blame the Republicans for that no matter how hard you try.

  85. @Paul Oh, Paul. The manufacturing got shipped overseas starting with Reagan. Fact. The Republicans own that. You better believe I can blame the Republicans, because that's how it happened.

  86. Oh, Yuck. A sick Barista making my morning coffee. Great, and so I get to take home her illness too. Has no one heard of those dying from the flu this year? It is great that some people without health insurance are depending on Tumeric for what ails them, but some people have serious illness' which Tumeric isn't going to cure, and then there are the common sense social graces of not spreading your germs around to the rest of us. Let Typhoid Mary stay home until she is better.

  87. @Janet Woo Probably best that you never eat out again, because it is unfortunately very common for food service workers to not be able to get out of a shift, either because they can't afford it (paid sick days are rare in this industry), or because restaurants and coffee shops are chronically understaffed. Thus, calling in sick can result in guilt tripping, loss of shifts, or even termination. If your response to this is, "well they should just find a new job," then you really wouldn't be able to eat out anymore because there would be nobody left to do that work. Food service jobs with security and benefits such as sick days are few and far between. I'm glad that I no longer work in that grueling industry full time and am thankful for the flexibility that working from home now offers, even if it means responding to emails when sick.

  88. The point: Young barista likely had zero benefits and zero health insurance. Paying rent, making a life. It’s easy for those of us who have a comfy income with benefits to say we would stay home while sick. It doesn’t always work out so neatly at age 20-something.

  89. Janet, I am a barista who has been going to work sick all week because we certainly don’t have such a thing as “sick days”. One day last week I felt so bad that I just couldn’t go in. I hated calling out because I knew there was no one extra to cover for me that day. And my grocery shopping will be very light for a few weeks after losing a day’s income. Thankfully, I still have health insurance through my parents (thanks, Obama!) unlike every one of my coworkers. (I’m the youngest of our team of 6 at 23; the oldest of us is in their mid 30s. All but two of us have at least one degree.) Two of my friends at work aged out of their health insurance in the last few months and I remember them both frantically scheduling as many checkup doctors appointments as they could in their last month of being insured, because who knows when they’ll be able to afford it again. To me, your comment screams condescension and lack of empathy for us “Typhoid Mary’s” making your coffee every morning. I hope you at least don’t forget to tip. (Tips are how I pay my rent.)

  90. I work in HR and insist when an employee is sick that they stay home and sleep/rest. We will call you if we have an urgent question. Employees still check their emails, I do also, but there is no expectation that they will do any work. I firmly believe that you don’t get well by sitting at your computer all day, whether at home or work. And I won’t let a sick employee infect an entire office because they think they’re indispensable.

  91. @JWyly A voice of reason. Thank you.

  92. I entered the work force in 1977 at Grey Advertising in NYC. I came from a home where I wasn’t allowed to stay home from school unless I was really sick, ie had a temp above 100. So I never took one of the ten sick days permitted in my first year. My boss actually ordered me to stay home one day as a “mental health day”! She was upset that I never called off and made others look like slackers! Once I had kids my sick days were legitimate, I either was taking care of sick children or came down with what they brought home. By then I was at FCB in San Francisco and took more than the allotted days, I was paid for every one of them too. Sadly, those days are long gone and I feel work has really taken over most employees personal lives. I think a mental health day now and then, where one is completely turned off from work, would be quite useful to most of the younger work force. I am happily retired!

  93. I was sick with cancer last year and continued working remotely part time almost through my entire five weeks of radiation treatment (which was in a different city). I often felt sick, but work was the only thing that I actually had the energy to do -- it was a great way to get my mind off my dire condition and a wonderful distraction. I didn't work at all for one month. Now I'm back almost full time. I feel so grateful that I have a job with flexibility and that modern technology makes it possible to still be a valuable contributor even when one is sick for an extended period.

  94. This isn’t happening just to employees, but to students, too! Growing up, the common cold was an excuse to stay home, watch TV, and be lazy. Children today have online access to class notes, textbooks, and homework assignments. There’s no excuse for not getting it done...except perhaps that the internet was down and I couldn’t use “Find My iPhone” to find my iPhone!

  95. I have worked extensively in both the US and the EU. The US work environment is depraved, and benefits no one. The increasingly conservative political environment has slowly whittled the rights of US workers down to nothing. American voters are responsible for this, and employers take full advantage of this situation where workers are essentially without rights. If voters continue to elect officials who are beholden to the very forces that repress workers, the downward spiral will continue. It always shocks me that US voters are so willing to vote against their own financial and social interest.

  96. How about PTO (Paid time off) which combines sick days and vacation days? You have employees coming into the office with the flu, a cold, etc. to avoid taking a day off from work when sick. They spread germs all over the office. They'd rather take the time as vacation. And, if you have to take sick days with an extended illness or injury, you can kiss your vacation good bye.

  97. I love taking full sick days when I am actually sick. There is rejuvenating aspect to not working at all, not doing anything really. Something happens spiritually and emotionally as well as physically when you simply STOP, give in and allow your body the time and space it needs to heal.

  98. I work for myself so if I take a sick day, I don’t get paid, and that’s that.

  99. For all the people that go to work sick: your sore throat may be strep. Streptococcus is deadly to others. People with compromised immune systems do not merely catch your cold. They develop pneumonia and die or end up in ICU. Just because you can work through a cold doesn’t mean everyone else can. Most employers don’t care. Keeping skeleton crews to boost their numbers means there’s no one available to call in. Management in restaurants and cafes need to consider public health. I don’t want a side of strep with my latte. If you have sick days or PTO use them if you can.

  100. For anyone outside the US - where ten or more sick days a year are part of employment law - reading comments from people terrified of losing a job because of a day off is sad. Do you really believe dragging yourself from your sick bed will save you when the company works out they can replace you with someone working from a computer in Bangladesh? Proving you can work from home only hastens that process.

  101. I work for one of the biggest health insurance companies in the Pacific Northwest. We do not have sick days. If you are sick, you must give up one of your PTO (paid time off) days. Just this week there was an anonymous handwritten sign in the break room: “persons with hacking cough: consider working from home!” No wonder we’re all sick.