Sick days are an important asset of working life that help keep employees safe. There are plenty of times when using a sick day should be a no-brainer. If you have a case of the flu or food poisoning, the obvious answer is yes, stay home and heal. But what about the gray areas when you aren't actually ill but are having second thoughts about going to work that run way deeper than a case of the Monday Blues?
It's not okay to use a sick day when:
1. You Need More Time on A Project
If you are running behind on finishing a project and you use a sick day, you’ll just end up causing yourself more stress and leave room for questions. In this case, it’s best to be honest with your boss and say the project is taking longer than expected. It could also indicate that you need more help with the project or should have more time in the future. Outright deception can hurt your boss, yourself, and even your career.
2. You’re Going to An Event
If you just received tickets or an invitation to a special event and are considering playing sick, definitely think before you make that phone call. There are many ways that your boss or coworkers could discover your indiscretion. From a wayward social media slip to a friend of a friend seeing you, skipping work for fun is a gamble you don’t want to make.
3. The Weather Is Gross
When it’s raining cats and dogs, the last thing you want to deal with is the morning commute, but if your sick days begin to coincide with unfortunate weather forecasts, the office will begin to talk. Invest in a solid pair of rain boots and a sturdy umbrella, and skip the sick day excuse.
4. You Have a Hair Appointment
If you call out of work for a cosmetic appointment, don’t be surprised when your coworkers or boss eye you suspiciously after you show up with a fresh mani or your split ends have miraculously vanished. Schedule a weekend appointment or take a personal day in advance.
It's okay to use a sick day when:
1. You’re Burnt Out
If you feel like you’re on the verge of snapping because you’re so stressed out, you could end up being more of a liability than an asset to your company. Unchecked exasperation is unhealthy, and taking a day to relax and center yourself means that when you return you’ll be better able to contribute to your team.
2. You Need to Take Care of Someone Else
Staying home to care for someone you’re responsible for should never be a source of guilt. If a loved one who depends on you for help isn’t well, using a sick day to look after them is completely acceptable.
3. You Have A Medical Appointment
I used to feel guilty about using sick days for doctor appointments. I appear to be healthy, but I have an autoimmune disorder that requires close monitoring and regular specialist visits. Whether you need to see a specialist every week or just have a basic dental check-up, keeping medical appointments is imperative to your overall wellbeing. Taking time to make sure all is well is always worth it.
4. You’re Grieving
Taking a mental health day is a completely valid reason to use a sick day.
BuzzFeed reported that 19-year-old college student Rachel Harriman confessed to her professor that she was turning in an assignment late after her boyfriend unexpectedly broke up with her. Some commenters supported Rachel while others wrote that her professor should have been tougher. My take is that life happens, and when people show humanity, we are all better for it. If you have experienced a loss or serious setback that put you off balance to the point where you're unable to focus on doing your job, you’re better off staying home. If the issue is impacting you long term, consider contacting the appropriate channels about taking a bereavement leave.
If you need to call in sick, check out our guide on the right way to call out of work.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.