I have been following Melody from Caramel (Learners at Love) for quite some time now. Recently she started a series called The Caramel Crunch and although I like to participate I usually leave a short comment on her post. This week I felt that I had a little more to say on the subject so here is my response to The Caramel Crunch #8.
Mel’s question was:
You have a horrible cold and you realize you are infectious. However, there is a culture in your workplace of still attending work when you are ill. You realize that if you phone in sick, your manager will then have to spend time ringing other staff and may not be able to find someone else who can cover your shift. You realize that the other staff will be under a lot of pressure to keep up with the work. They always turn up for work even when they are ill.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
My answer to Mel’s question is probably not going to be very definative. I realised that I have made different decisions on this very matter depending on the workplace that I have been in.
Many years ago (before my children came along) I worked in a personnel office for the Roads Department of the local authority. I don’t remember having a cold while I worked there (although I was signed off work with anxiety for 6 weeks) but if I had I probably would have taken time off. It was a large open plan office. There were around 8 of us on the team I worked in and most of the staff were fairly young and healthy. I think in that situation my colleagues would have been more upset if I had gone to work and infected them than if they had to pick up some of my workload.
When my kids were very young I did some waitressing and bar work in the evenings when their dad was home to look after them. I guess working with food is a different ‘kettle of fish’ than working in an office anyway but I would have taken time off if I’d had a heavy cold in that situation. I don’t think the customers would have been too impressed if I was breathing my germs all over their food. It definitely would have created more hassle for the managers in the restaurant though. I know they often had difficulty getting shifts covered so they probably would have been cursing me for being ill but equally they probably wouldn’t want me in looking like death warmed up and sneezing all over the place either.
When I was teaching it would have been a very different story. For a start schools are rife with germs. There are always children there with heavy colds in the winter time so this would almost definitely be where I’d picked up the infection from in the first place. There is very much a culture of going to work when you’re ill among teachers. There are several reasons for this:
- If you stayed off every time you were ill you’d never be at work because there are so many germs floating around in schools. Obviously if we were talking anything more serious than a heavy cold that would be a different story.
- It can be more stressful to communicate the plans you had for your class for the day to someone else than it would be just to go in to school and do the best you could. I remember times when I really was too ill to attend having to email lots of instructions and resources (PowerPoint presentations, worksheets and the like) in to the school before I could relax and begin to recover.
- In my area if you were absent from work on more than two occasions you were put on a disciplinary plan. As no one knows when they might be unwell staff didn’t want to take time off for something as straightforward as a cold in case they ended up being unwell again and had to go on to a disciplinary plan. I don’t know the ins and outs of what one of these plans involved as I never needed to go on one but the name in itself was enough to scare people into being at work if they possibly could.
- Often the effect of your absence on the pupils would play a big part in the decision too. You realise that (no matter how good they are) the children’s education will be affected by having a supply teacher in while you are off. Having the consistency of a teacher that knows the pupils and their capabilities, knows what they have already covered and what they need to work on next and what their abilities are and what support they need is hard to replace. Many teachers attend work when they are ill simply because they feel the knock on effect on the children’s education would be too significant.
As a self-employed sole trader, I now have a different set of issues to work through if I am unwell. I’d be letting my clients down if I didn’t go to work as there is no one to replace me. I wouldn’t get paid if I didn’t turn up as sick pay and holiday pay are not available – I get paid for the hours I am actually there to do the job. I do have the flexibility to be off in the sense that no one would be having to worry about covering me and there are no disciplinary plans to worry about. I am still largely working in germ infested schools though so I guess I would decide on a case by case basis depending on how ill I really felt.
So to go back to Mel’s question I probably would go to work under the circumstances she described since it seems to be what everyone else does anyway. It sounds like I may well have picked up the infection in that workplace and also like it would have more of a negative impact if I did not attend work than if I did. I think I do tend to weigh up the options in this kind of situation though so it might also depend on the importance of what I was working on at the time.
Well if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading. I realise this was a bit of a long winded answer but it let me chatter on for a bit which will save my hubby listening to me go on about it later 😂. Thanks to Melody for the question too. Do let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on what I’ve said.