The Sick Day Corollary

I have been off sick from work today and have taken a sick day. As I have sat here undertaking a cross between dozing, answering emails, racing to the bathroom and watching Skyfall again on DVD I have been pondering a quote from, of all shows, Fat Pizza being “Come on Dinkums, who do you know that actually takes a sick day when they are sick?” The character of Paulie in Fat Pizza has a point, albeit one not as overt as the one in the quote.

I do not know whether it is a quintessentially Australian thing nor whether it is a male thing but it strikes me that both “camps” have a distinct abhorrence to taking a sick day when they are actually sick. I know that during my first career I either had to be under sedation, anaesthesia or locked out of the building to not come to work when I was sick. My theorem at the time was a mixture of not wanting to seem weak and because I thought I was so vital to the operation of my firm that I just could not miss a day.

To say that I have learned the error of my ways in this new career would be an understatement. When I am unwell I take a sick day. To be clear: I do not mean when I have a sniffle or a scratchy throat here; I mean when I am unable to see out of my right eye because of a migraine or, like today, when I am having significant balance problems coupled with a vomiting.

So that is that and I have learned a valuable lesson about looking after myself … BUT is that really all of this topic that requires discussion? It is in the second line of this post that holds the answer. I have spent a large part of today answering emails and, it is easier to say, actually working. So that begs the question: am I actually just working from home today or am I convalescing in the hope of returning to work tomorrow?

Therein lies what I think is a new corollary about the taking of sick leave: even when we (and here I am referring to those of us in professional services or any vocation that provides one with a smart phone) are on sick leave we are still working. Smart phones, tablets and secure log ons from home computers all make us still contactable and, if we allow ourselves to be, still working. I make no criticism of my employer here: it is my choice to sit on my lounge juggling my two iPads and answering my iPhone. Indeed, I tell myself, I will not be sufficiently relaxed to actually let myself heal without keeping my eye on work and engaging with my staff and other stakeholders who form part of my daily work so in fact doingthis work is an important part of my day off.

Much has been written about the so called “crackberry” syndrome. I am unsure as to whether I am a sufferer in the true sense because I am simply using the ability to check my emails as a self destressing mechanism. I do not propose to traverse all of the issues that surround the said syndrome.

Suffice it to say though, and getting back to the point of this blog, it makes me wonder whether we have reached a point where, in some industries or professions, the offering of sick leave is meaningless? If, when one is sick, we are still, in effect, working if only to check our emails and respond accordingly why is it necessary to take sick leave? That is still work isn’t it? Or has the connectivity of the work place moved so far that the act of checking emails is considered just a part of life rather than work?

I am not going to lie: there is a part of me that wishes I could turn that part of my brain off that compels me to ensure nothing is in my emails that needs urgent or detailed consideration. As I can not the question remains: should I request sick leave for today or just mark it down as a working from home day?

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