Jennifer Still
July 29, 2013 5:13 pm

We’ve all experienced one of those dreaded days. You know the ones: you wake up feeling dreadful. Your nose is stuffy, your throat is on fire and your head feels like it’s going to explode. You can barely sit up in bed, but you have to somehow manage to shower and get to work on time. Calling out isn’t an option – you have no sick days.

Sickness is just one reason you might need to take an unforeseen day – maybe even a week – off from your job. Perhaps your parent or child has fallen ill and you need to be there to care for them. Maybe someone close to you has passed away and you just don’t feel as though you can push your grief aside to remain chirpy at the office; maybe you just had a baby and would love to spend time bonding with it and allowing your body to recuperate. In all of those scenarios, the most important thing you can have is time to heal – physically, emotionally and mentally. When your job doesn’t provide that, what are you supposed to do?

It seems like common sense that everyone – men and women – would just need to call a time out every once in a while. After all, we’re human beings, not machines and as such, we need to constantly replenish our “fuel”: we need to sleep well, eat well, move our bodies and not least of all, we need the opportunity to temporarily remove ourselves from the fray of everyday life when our bodies have had enough so that we can regain our health in every sense before rejoining the rat race.

Of course, for many this ideal is just that – a “wouldn’t that be nice” pipe dream. This mostly happens in blue collar jobs and the service industry. Those who work hardest and are paid least are also given the fewest resources and benefits, and it’s taking a serious toll. Employees who fail to take a day off when ill for fear of losing their jobs will not only most likely spread that illness to other workers but will be less productive and perhaps become sicker than they were previously as their body cannot fight against a cold, flu or anything else while constantly in motion. Workers whose lack of job security keep them from stepping away from work to deal appropriately with the deaths of loved ones or mental health issues, for example, may show up to put a body behind a deli counter or in a classroom, but the ultimate price is not worth what would otherwise most likely be a minor inconvenience.

Anyone who has ever led a staff (or even simply been part of one) – can tell you that one of the most important factors in a team’s ability to work efficiently and to a high standard is morale. This can be achieved in many ways: praise and rewards for jobs well done, incentives and bonuses to encourage employees to “go the extra mile” and, perhaps most importantly, empathy from managerial staff when you’re tired, ill or just having a bad day. When morale is down, employees work slower and to a lower quality grade because if no one cares about them, why should they care about their job?

The last thing anyone who is going through a hard time outside of work wants to deal with is a lack of sympathy and empathy from their co-workers or superiors once they’re at work. Of course, you could argue that your job is a business and not a personal friend or therapist, but a basic level of human compassion can go a long way. Being understanding when an employee is unwell or having a difficult time and allowing that person the time they need to bounce back not only ensures their personal well-being, it also pretty much guarantees that they’ll be extra dedicated, refreshed and ready to give you their all when they return.

Having been through several issues over the years which required me to take varying amounts of time away from my work – from a few days to a few months – I can personally attest to this. Having an understanding superior when I most needed it allowed me the chance to get better or to solve whatever issues were occurring more quickly and completely because I didn’t also have the added stress of feeling like my job might be in danger. On other occasions, however, I have been in that very position and those times were fraught with guilt and anxiety and an animosity towards my employer, to whom I generally give 100% of my focus and energy.

Bottom line: healing is important, and that may be the understatement of the year. Our health is the most important thing we own, and we must care for it. While career, family, hobbies and the general hectic pace of everyday life might sometimes override that, we must never forget how vital it is that we not only foster our own well-being, but that of those around us, from friends to colleagues. Take that sick day. Rest. Get well.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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