This morning, my partner woke up and immediately told me he’s not going to work today. He’s been feeling sick for a few days, and while he’s pretty sure it’s just allergies, he decided he needs time to rest if he doesn’t want to get burnt out. He’s lucky enough that his work has a great sick leave policy and he has plenty of hours to spend – many working people aren’t as lucky. But with COVID numbers once again on the rise, and finals season nearly upon us, I implore all of us to take a sick day when we need to – if we are able.
It’s not a secret that most US workplaces have sick leave policies that leave much to be desired, which means that many people are forced to work when they don’t feel well. Similarly at many universities, professors have strict attendance policies with little room for making up assignments. This isn’t just rude – it’s inaccessible. People cannot choose when they get sick, or for how long, and many people have chronic illnesses that make everyday tasks a tricky tightrope walk. I believe that work and school environments should provide better accommodations when it comes to health and wellness, including providing more flexibility for sick days. And while we’re at it, here are a few extra circumstances other than acute illness that are worthy of a sick day:
- Seasonal Allergies
Even though allergies are not an acute illness, they can really take a number on the body, especially if one’s body is tired from working too hard. Symptoms can be as light as a sniffle, and severe as a high fever, but any level of severity can hinder one’s ability to work. Take a sick day!
- Mental Health
Using sick days for mental health has been a common debate in recent years, and people who are against it use the argument that “feeling sad” is not a recent to call out of work. But severe mental illness can actually manifest in physical symptoms akin to acute disease like shortness of breath, drowsiness, weakness, and a number of other ailments. Even if someone’s symptoms aren’t that severe, prioritizing mental health is essential for overall wellness. Take a sick day!
Similar to mental health, exhaustion is something that people can write off as being “not that bad”. But overworking yourself, especially if you’re also in school, can lead to more severe illnesses. Exhaustion is your body telling you that you need to slow down. Take a sick day!
I understand that taking a sick day is not possible for everyone. Whether it’s financial constraints, project deadlines, or simply having a job where people depend on your presence, choosing to stay home may not be an option. But as a society, we can be more outspoken for our need to rest, and hopefully employers, professors, and policy makers can notice and make some much needed changes so we can all take a sick day.