I got a cold for Christmas. It wasn’t on my wish-list, but nevertheless, it was the gift I received. Sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and just generally feeling like ass.
I have no idea where the cold came from. During the course of an average week, I teach at 3 gyms, and 4 businesses, along with working in a group art studio regularly. If you add that all up, I have a lot of opportunities to exchange germs with people.
As a fitness professional, I spend a lot of time telling people l how to live a healthier life. A cornerstone of that advice is self-care. I am constantly telling people, “take care of your body and listen to what it’s telling you. If you push yourself too hard, you will end up in worse shape than if you’d just paid attention.” If I had chosen to follow my own advice, I would probably be healed by now. But I didn’t.
As much as I love that I get to do things I love every day, much of it involves being obligated to show up and teach my scheduled classes. Because of the way the holidays fell this year a lot of my regular classes were cancelled. With the reduced class load, I didn’t feel like I could afford to take a break from the few remaining classes I had. All I could see was the bottom line. If you haven’t already guessed it, that was a poor choice. By pushing myself, I managed to make myself really sick.
By the time I went to urgent care six days after initially getting sick, and then paying for the antibiotics and steroids I needed, I ended up spending almost as much money as I made by forcing myself to continue going. I don’t believe in wasting time on regrets, but damn. Pushing my body and continuing to work was not the smartest move I’ve ever made.
I believe part of my poor decision making can be blamed on the indoctrination I received working in corporate. In today’s world, no one thinks they have the time to take a few days to rest and heal. not call in sick, regardless of what the company handbook may say.
When I was in that world, there was not a single company I worked for who understood the necessity of taking time to heal. It was frowned on if you actually took more than a day or two of your earned sick-time in any given year. At one of my first corporate jobs employees did not earn a single paid sick day until they had been on the job for a year.
Today’s employees are expected to be at work every day, regardless. Yes, there are companies who will tell you to stay home when you are sick. Too many of those same companies dictate unrealistic goals each month. The managers expected to deliver those goals do not have the resources to have employees who are not there every day. As a result, there is pressure to show up to work every day, regardless of your health status. There is pressure, spoken or unspoken, to not call in sick, regardless of what the company handbook may say.
It’s not just bad for your health to force yourself to work while ill. Even more important is the obvious effect of one sick person infecting the whole work force. At that point, production is doomed to slow down because you cannot get high-quality work from people who are ill. Errors occur with a higher frequency when someone is trying to work while ill. Accidents increase, which can also threaten other employees.
There’s now a name for this phenomenon: presenteeism. According to Investopedia, “Presenteeism is defined as the problem of employees who are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury or other condition. Even though the employee may be physically at work, he may not be able to fully perform his duties and is more likely to make mistakes on the job.”
It makes me feel marginally better to know that I am not alone in the bad decisions I made about my health. That doesn’t change the fact that I know better. My hope moving forward is that I will remember this hard-learned lesson and take better care of my body in the future. I also hope maybe you’ll remember this next time you’re deciding whether or not to stay home when you’re sick.
Let me be clear: stay home.
(photo courtesy of Alamy stock photo)