The stories are everywhere; you can’t open a paper (for those of us that still read them) or turn on the radio without hearing the words flu or H1N1 mentioned. The topic is all over Facebook and Twitter as people lament their illness, or that of their kids and spouses.
The flu is serious business, it can be deadly for some populations, but arguably, for most people, it is just uncomfortable and inconvenient. Yet as Americans, we take any kind of illness personally, it is like some sign of weakness to admit that you weren’t able to fight off a stupid little virus. So, rather than doing the smart thing and staying home and keeping the germs to ourselves, we put on our superhero capes (or martyr robes depending on your perspective) and soldier on, runny noses, scratchy throats, hacky coughs and all.
Sick days to the working person are like those plastic decorations on a cake. They look good in an employment offer, but you aren’t really supposed to consume them. Some companies even reward employees who DON’T use sick days. This means that super Joe or Jane comes to work spewing germs thus infecting poor Mary or Marty who doesn’t have the strongest immune system and ends up taking sick time. Joe or Jane gets a reward at Mary or Marty’s expense.
The age-old argument is “I don’t have TIME to be sick”. Really? Why is it that doctors say the best remedy for colds is rest and fluids? If you’d stay home when you are first sick, I bet you’d find you feel better faster than if you barrel on like a locomotive infecting everyone for miles.
Don’t even get me started on parents who send sick kids to school. In most cases, I don’t blame the parent as much as I do the parent’s employer. When I was volunteering in my daughter’s second grade classroom, I overheard J, an obviously sick child tell the teacher she couldn’t go to the nurse because her mom would lose her job if she left work to care for J. What is a teacher supposed to do with that?????
My kids inspired this post. Both are home today. I kept the younger one home yesterday because he was a veritable faucet of mucus and is not good at blowing his nose, remembering to cover his mouth when he sneezes or coughs, or washing his hands. Germs are the only things he is good at sharing. He’s 5, I am optimistic this will change. He didn’t have a fever and spent most of the day be-bopping around the house.
The older one also had a runny nose yesterday and the beginnings of a cough, but since she is better at containing her germs and she BEGGED (really!) to go to school. I sent her. I send decongestant with her and when she visited the nurse yesterday, for a regular dose, she complained of a scratchy throat, so the nurse took her temperature it was 100.3. So, home she came. Both kids are still spewing liquid today, but both are better. Still, they are home. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m no saint in this game. I’ve sent my kids into the fray plenty of times when they weren’t 100%, but never when I knowingly thought they were seriously ill.
I’m not really sure what the answer is. Employers complain, that sick time costs money and lost productivity, but I think they are being incredibly short sighted. If they’d allow employees the time to stay home and get well, I think they’d find that that productivity would increase because when employees ARE on the job, they would be well and focused on their work rather than ill and jonesing for that next cold medicine fix.
I work for myself, so I have fairly liberal sick time policies. How about you? What kind of sick time policies does your company have? Can you work from home when you are sick? Are you at risk of losing your job if your kids get sick?