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How Many Sick Days Are Too Many?

Just because your contract affords you sick days, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel comfortable taking them. Still, managing illnesses, or just taking a mental health day here and there, is important for your overall health and well-being, not to mention your career.
Sick Day
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Many professionals are given sick days as a part of their compensation package. But different industries and organizations respond differently when employees actually take them. It’s easy to wonder, given these circumstances, how many sick days are too many to take without paying a price professionally? It’s not so much about how many days you take. It’s more about how you go about it. There are a few things you should keep in mind:

There is a good deal of pressure in some industries to never take a day off

Some industries, and some companies, are worse than others. But no matter how you cut it, you live in a culture of overwork. Working long hours, coming in over the weekend, and responding to texts or emails late into the evening, are practically the new normal. People say that they’re “so busy” with pride, as if it’s a declaration of their success.

Given these circumstances, it’s no wonder that a ton of sick and vacation days go unused. Of course, this costs the worker most of all at the end of the day. In the U.S., about 212 million vacation days are forfeited annually. Sick days are often left on the table too. In many businesses, it’s not easy to take time off for any reason. It’s no wonder workers struggle with what to do with their sick days.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Working long hours and responding to texts or emails late into the evening is the new normal. People say they’re “so busy” with pride, as if it’s proof of their success. Given this, it’s no wonder a ton of sick and vacation days go unused.Click To Tweet

What if you never get sick?

Ideally, you don’t get sick very often. So, does that mean that you have to lose those days? They’re a part of your compensation package after all. It only seems right to get to use them. But do you risk taking a sick day when you really aren’t ill?

First of all, it’s never a good idea to lie to your employer about why you aren’t coming in. Don’t pretend to have a cold and then spend the day at the beach. There are several reasons for this: First, you might get caught – social media has basically eliminated any hope of privacy, if you hadn’t noticed. Second, you’ll spend all day worrying about being busted rather than actually enjoying your day. What’s the sense in that? Finally, and most importantly, lying compromises your integrity, and that’s the last thing you want to do.

Instead, you might want to question what circumstance really qualify you for a sick day. Do you have to be very ill and heading to the doctor or the ER? Absolutely not. Sick days are meant to help you take care of yourself. So, if you’re feeling under the weather, or excessively drained, stressed, or overworked, you just might deserve a sick day.

Sick days are meant to help you take care of yourself. So, if you’re feeling under the weather, or excessively drained, stressed, or overworked, you just might deserve a sick day.Click To Tweet

Taking a day off at this stage could save you from needing to take a bunch of days off further down the road. Or, it could stop you from walking away from your organization earlier than you would have otherwise because of burnout. If you need some time off because you’re not functioning at your best, consider taking a sick day. Doing so might actually help your career rather than hurt it.

You can take sick days and still stay on your boss’s good side

There are a few things to keep in mind when taking a sick day. You’ll want maximize your time away while still staying on the boss’s good side. Here’s what you can do:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Say that you won’t be coming in today and that you’ll be using one of your sick days. You don’t have to cough into the phone or complain about how miserable you were once you return. Just keep in short and sweet.
  • Have confidence in your decision. It’s perfectly all right to take a sick day when you need one, even if you’re not having major surgery. Have confidence in that belief and you’ll carry that with you when you return to work. You have nothing to feel guilty about, so don’t behave as though you do once you return.
  • Be indispensable. You’ll stay on your boss’s good side if you’re an excellent team builder and team player, if you have an awesome attitude, and if you bring knowledge and expertise to everything you do. If you’re seen as an indispensable employee, a sick day here and there won’t make a bit of difference.
  • Consider others, and your timing. You should be careful not to leave anyone else in the lurch because of your absence. Don’t call in sick on a day that you have a presentation or a big client meeting. If the business suffers because of your absence, or if your coworkers pay a price, your boss is sure to notice.
  • Don’t overdo it. You shouldn’t take too many days off in a row. And, you don’t have to use every single one of your paid sick days either. Simply take sick days as needed and then jump back in with both feet once your return to work.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think that taking sick days has negatively impacted your career? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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