You’ve got kids to get to school. You’ve got a deadline looming. You’ve got a cough and a fever. It’s important to take care of all of those things, but one of them is going to knock you out if you don’t get ahead of it quickly. When you have so many things on your plate, taking a day off of work, or calling in reinforcements to help with the kids can feel impossible, almost selfish, but you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of everything around you. So we’ve compiled a quick breakdown of when it is definitely time to take a sick day, what you should be responsible for, and how to cut yourself a break.

Stay in Bed, Please!

  • Flu Symptoms – Are you feeling achy, feverish, coughing and so tired you can barely lift your head? Yah, your body needs a rest, liquids, and some meds to help you manage. This is definitely a red alert, no one wants the flu so let your team know you might be out for a few days and unreachable.
    • The flu is highly contagious, so you might want to quarantine yourself for the first few days and ask your partner or a friend to help with the kids.
  • Common Cold – This can feel like anything but common. You’re tired, you have a headache, a sore throat and maybe a low fever. You might be able to push through and make it to work, but unless you absolutely have to, stay in bed and work from your computer. A lowkey cold can bloom into a respiratory issue if you don’t give your body a break.
    • Colds are also contagious, but usually only for the first day or so after symptoms present. Still, try and keep yourself separated from little ones who pick up germs easily. Wash hands frequently, change your sheets and switch out your toothbrush.
  • Stomach Bug – I mean, do we even really need to discuss this one? If you find yourself running to and from the bathroom for whatever reason? Probably for the best to stay home until the bug passes.
    • Tip: You don’t need to go into details on this one. A simple “staying home with a stomach bug” will be enough for your team to know.
  • Mental Health Day – This one can feel a little tricky. You may not be coughing or feverish, but you still feel a bit off. Maybe you’re tired, rundown or just feeling overwhelmed and need a day to yourself. That’s totally fine, and moreover, it will help prevent burnout which, once it sets in, can take weeks to feel better from.
    • It likely depends on what your work policy is for Paid Time Off, but more than likely you can take a sick day for this. You don’t owe your boss or employer a long, detailed explanation, simply taking a personal day is enough.

Managing Your Other Responsibilities

  • Working from Home – This is where it matters what your office environment is, but usually, the best advice is being honest with yourself and your team about what you can manage.
    • If you’re dealing with the flu, assume that you will have at least a day or two when you are entirely unreachable.
      • It’s hard to work with a fever, and trying to push through it may just make you sicker or slow your recovery down.
    • If what you need is a mental health day to focus on self-care, try to avoid all work if you can. Having a few hours to balance and center without worrying about all the things you could be doing will make a huge difference longterm in your mental and physical health.
  • Kids & Home Life – This is another instance where it matters what type of support system you have already in place. If you are feeling fluish, you should try and avoid contact with other people (especially kids) for a few days as it’s an airborne contagion.
    • Lean on your partner, reach out to other parents in your circle or neighbors you trust to see if they can help you out while you live under a pile of tissues.

No Need to Feel Guilty

This is something we all feel when we’re sick. That “I can probably push through” feeling or the “I’m not even that sick” moment. But your health is incredibly important. Not just for you, but for your family and for your work. If you’re at a point where you think might need to stay home, you probably do. If you have a job that provides you with paid sick leave, take it! And if you have someone who can help out with your kids, ask them!

Taking care of yourself means that you will be well enough to tackle everything full strength when you come back. Working at half speed just creates more work, and the stress can actually weaken your immune system further. You may worry that you’re taking advantage, but think about it this way: when you are sick, you’re at a disadvantage. It only means that you will be able to jump in and lend a hand when someone else is under the weather!