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Sabrina Mehra

Sabrina Mehra

December 23, 2014

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Sick at Work

We all enjoy a good sick day every once in a while. Curled up on the couch in our favorite pajamas, sipping mom’s famous-but-lethal chicken soup and catching up on the awesomeness of Oprah, what’s not to love? However, take one sick day too many (or time off when you’re only a teensy bit ill) and you’re at risk of being perceived as a wuss or flake; fail to take a day off when you really need one and your co-workers could resent you for putting them at risk. Complicated? Not so with a basic understanding of workplace-specific sick etiquette.

How Sick Are You?
As difficult as it is to think clearly when you’re plagued with a migraine or raging allergy attack, you need to self-assess your symptoms before you make that call to your supervisor. The critical question: how hard will it be to manage while you’re at work? Some ailments don’t require home rest at all; you can heal just as well from your desk without damaging your health or career. If your nose won’t stop running but you can trudge through your tasks, toss extra tissues into your tote and put your nose to the grind. In situations where your symptoms are all-engrossing—such as incessant diarrhea or vomiting—and contending with them will keep you preoccupied (i.e. racing to the toilet all day), do yourself and everyone with whom you share that work toilet a favor and stay home.

Critical Care
From your first day on the job, know your company’s policy on sick days. Know what makes you vulnerable to illness (or, if you suffer from seasonal allergies or crippling menstrual cramps, anticipate when you’ll probably be under the weather), and know what you need to do to manage or suppress whatever makes you sick. Keep a kit at the office fully-stocked with the essentials—Advil, Band-Aids, tissues, Pepto Bismal, peppermint tea, antihistamine, and eye drops—and be prepared for those sudden and unwelcome attacks.

The Power of Prevention
The biggest knowledge nugget of all? Work hard at not getting sick! As you touch door handles and photocopiers and the thousands of other places where co-workers discard their germs (you never know who’s sneezed on your keyboard when you’re not around), keep prevention at the top of your mind. Tried and true preventative tools include incessant hand-washing (or, for those moments when sinks are not readily available, anti-bacterial lotion products like Purell), oil of oregano (a ghastly burning oil that works well at quashing the cold virus), Echinacea-infused teas, regular sleep, and a daily vitamin regimen.

An apple a day doesn’t hurt, either.