DRMacIver's Notebook

The changing nature of sick days

The changing nature of sick days

One of the interesting things about the COVID pandemic is that it very much changes the dynamics of sickness (if you’re dealing with reasonable people anyway, which I acknowledge many of us are not).

Previously, if you called in a sick day, I feel like this was treated as a moral failing. You should just tough it out, come to work anyway, anything else is weakness.

COVID-19 has helped highlight the fact that actually no, the reason to call in sick is to avoid giving people a virus. COVID-19 is a particularly bad virus to give people, but it’s not like the other ones floating around are much fun either.

The flip side of this of course is that although there’s a stronger case to call in sick, when you’re already working from home the fact that you just feel a bit grotty doesn’t really stop you from working. It just reduces your capacity - unless you’re really badly off you still can do some work, you just would rather not. As a result, you take both more and fewer sick days, depending on how one interprets the term.

If you’re not noticeably ill, this has no effect. If you’re very ill, this also has no effect (or minimal - you need to convincingly demonstrate that you’re very ill). In the middle it has the odd effect of making things better if you’re not ill enough that you would previously have stayed home, and worse if you are ill enough that you would have.

Not that too many people are going in to the office right now anyway, so this is mostly hypothetical, I’m just interested in thinking about what impact COVID will have on our social norms. Maybe none.

For my part, the big differences are just that I’m more willing to cancel social events when I have a cold. I don’t know if that will last when there’s no longer a pandemic on.

I’m essentially self-employed, so COVID didn’t make much difference to my attitude personally. I tend to do what I can, such as write a very mediocre post about sick days, when ill, and stick to coaching sessions I’ve committed to unless I’m utterly nonfunctional, but otherwise don’t worry about it too much.

In general I feel like modern life is not well set up for the intrinsic unreliability of humans, especially humans as awash in different virus sources as modern life also brings us, but I’ll leave musing further on that for some time when my brain is working better.