Is It Okay to Use Your Sick Days When You’re Not Sick?
It’s finally here! The most marvelous time of the year! March Madness started this week and workers around the country will be paying more attention to their NCAA Tournament brackets than their work.
Time for a quick poll: How many of you are calling in sick to watch college basketball all day?
According to a Yahoo Sports Poll, about 14 percent of American workers take a sick day to watch March Madness. This sparks a controversial question: is it okay to use your sick time when you’re not actually sick?
Most of us have lied at one point or another to take a sick day when you’re not really sick. However, sometimes you really need to take a sick day, even though you’re not under the weather. Is that okay? Let’s break it down.
It depends on the company
Every company differs regarding time-off protocol. Traditionally, employers offer sick days and vacation days. Sick time is, as its name implies, for when you’re sick, and vacation time is for everything else. So, if you have an appointment, your kid is feeling under the weather, or you have a family emergency, you often had to use your vacation time instead of your sick time.
Some companies offer personal time to help combat some of these issues, but most employees still feel guilty when using sick time for anything else than being sick.
However, more and more companies are moving to PTO (paid time off). PTO is a combination of vacation time and sick time, where employees decide whether they use their days for a vacation, when they are sick, or for a family emergency. In fact, 43% of companies offered PTO in 2016.
Unfortunately, it’s a gray area for many organizations when its appropriate for workers to use their sick days. Here is when it’s okay to use your sick time:
When you really are sick
In a perfect world, you should be able to call in sick whenever you don’t feel well enough to be productive at work. If you are contagious, do you and your whole office a favor – stay home. Your co-workers will appreciate not being exposed to any nasty germs.
Some employers discourage you from using sick time. If this is the case for your employer, the company you work for has some serious culture issues. You shouldn’t have to be on your death bed in the ER to be able to use a sick day. Coming to work when you are not at 100% can be dangerous for you and your co-workers.
When you feel you’re about to burn out
You may have heard of Madalyn Parker, a software developer who suffers from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She took a couple days off to “focus on her mental health.” Her email message to her team went viral and this is what it said:
I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully, I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.
The next day, the CEO of Madalyn’s company commended her decision to take a couple sick days for her mental health. He told her she’s “an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”
This is a great example of using your sick time to when you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally. If you are not able to give 100% of your effort at work, it is perfectly okay to take a sick day to stay home and rejuvenate yourself!
Use your sick days responsibly
Regardless of how you decided to spend your sick days, use them responsibly. You should never take time off just because you don’t want to go to work. Just remember that when you use one sick day, you take away another opportunity for a day off down the road. And if you dread going to work so much that you feel you need to use a sick day, it may be time to find a new career path.