On days when you’re just sick as a dog, you’d probably agree that it’s best to stay at home. But then you realize that you’re out of sick days—and that your company isn’t the type to say, “Hey, that’s OK. Work from home for as long as you need. Just don’t get us sick!”
And you have the terrible realization that you have to go into the office, even though you can barely breathe out of your nose and can’t stop coughing all over the place.
It’s impossible to snap your fingers and recover instantly for the sake of your teammates. But here are a few things you can do that’ll help you avoid dragging everyone down with you.
1. Work From the Most Remote Corner You Can Find
A few years ago, I went on the internet and diagnosed myself with tuberculosis. And even though my diagnosis was completely wrong, I was legitimately ill and could have used a sick day—yet my boss insisted that I come in anyway.
I was convinced that my presence would infect every single one of my friends and that nobody would ever talk to me again. But then as I walked into the office for work that morning, I remembered that there was a small room for salespeople to call their clients in relative silence that no one ever used.
Maybe for you, it’s a conference room that’s always open. Or maybe it’s an empty desk that’s a few feet away from everybody else. No matter what it is, try to find somewhere you can sequester yourself and be as sick as you want without infecting the company.
2. Bring Cleaning Supplies Everywhere You Go for the Day
This might sound silly, but hear me out. The unfortunate truth is that you’re probably going to have to be around people while you’re hacking up a lung. And while that’s no fun for anyone, you can still take matters into your own hands by preparing yourself with the necessary cleaning supplies to wipe away any evidence that you were sick—especially if you happen to do so at someone else’s workstation.
Things like hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and a simple packet of tissues can go a long way in keeping things as clean as possible for everyone around you.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that you won’t pass on whatever it is you have. But showing your co-workers that you’re aware of the fact that you’re making their work environment a little icky will help them understand that if it were up to you, you’d be at home on the couch watching TV.
3. Avoid the Temptation to Work Even Harder Than Usual
When I landed on the idea that I’d contracted tuberculosis, I also decided that if I was going to be sick at work, I was going to work insanely hard. “I can push through this,” I said to myself. “Sure, I don’t have a choice, but I’m going to show my boss that he can count on me even if I feel like I’m about to die!”
While your enthusiasm should be lauded, you should also look at yourself in the mirror and ask if the extra energy you’re exerting is worth keeping yourself sick for an extended period of time.
Eventually, my effort at the office got me so sick that my boss had to make an exception for me and send me home. This might sound like an ideal outcome, but trust me—when you’re feeling gross, identify the things that absolutely need to get done, and then just get out of the building when those tasks are completed.
Being sick is never fun, especially when you’re forced to drag yourself into the office. And even though this is counterproductive and I wish I could yell at your company, this is probably a reality for many of you. So, do what you can to make things as easy as possible on you and the people you work with.
Photo of sick person courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author