Recently a good friend of mine injured her back from a simple fall due to a new pair of heels that she was wearing. She was in so much pain from the fall that she had to go to the emergency room for palliative management.
A few days after the accident, I called her to see how she was doing. She informed me that she was still in tremendous pain, but that she had to let me go because she needed to get back to work.
You see, my friend works from home, full-time, as a consultant. It was a Tuesday morning when I called, but I assumed since she had injured her back and was having difficulty getting around, that she would have called in sick; after all, she is a full-time employee with benefits.
I don’t know why her response surprised me. Because I too, continue to work when I'm sick or when I have to take care of my daughter when she is ill. The only difference is, I am self-employed and I don't have “sick day” benefits to fall back on.
So, I decided to throw out the question, “Is It Okay to Call in Sick When You Work-at-Home” to CEOs, managers, and other leaders, and here is what they had to say.
1. Are You Really Sick?!
Jillian Zavitz, Programs Manager for TalktoCanada.com, said:
I am responsible for interviewing and hiring new teachers. In response to your question, “Is it OK to call in sick when you work-from-home”? As an HR manager for teachers who do work from home — this is one of the biggest problems that we face. There is no way of telling if the teacher is ACTUALLY sick — it is really easy to just not turn on your computer and not come into work.
Since it is all done remotely — we don’t request a doctor’s note or any other kind of proof. Sometimes when someone calls in sick more often than not, we do give them a warning and eventually fire them. Having worked online for three years now — almost seven days a week — being pregnant and giving birth in between — I have only had two days off — and those two days were when I was in the hospital after having my baby.
People really need to suck it up sometimes — and decide if they really want to work or not, as there is no middle ground in this type of job!
2. How Sick Are You?
Yes, it is OK to call in sick when you work-at-home. No different than when you work in an office outside of the home. Each of us, of course, has a different definition of what it means to be too sick to be our best at work. For some, a minor sniffle is enough for them to be so distracted that they cannot give the work the care and attention it deserves. For others of us, we practically have to be bedridden before we call in sick to an office or even to ourselves.
The danger of working from home is that we tend to call in sick too infrequently. So the question I think is less whether it's OK to call in sick when you work-from-home, but rather perhaps HOW to call in sick and stick to it when you work-from-home.
3. At Least, Check Your Email.
Georgette Pascale, President, and CEO of Pascale Communications said:
I get this all of the time as I manage 11 employees virtually that work out of home offices. My feeling is that yes, everyone deserves a sick day, of course! BUT just like the people who DO NOT work-from-home and call out sick, I believe my team can at the very least check their email in case something of importance comes up during the day (most folks who do not work-from-home can check email on a sick day so why should virtual employees differ?).
I am always more than willing to handle any issues that come up for the said employee as I’m not a Hitler boss and we work as a team, but find it outdated that folks can completely distance themselves from work, even when they are not feeling well. And obviously, an emergency appendectomy differs than a nauseous stomach. Every case is different. Every occupation is different but in PR, deadlines are a must, and one missed email can be disastrous.
The other ironic thing for me is that when employees call out “sick” and then I see them active on Facebook all day long, or they can forward “joke” emails around the office, but yet they “feel too weak to answer emails,” it does burn me up a bit. The reason I provide hand-held devices for all of my employees and independent contractors is that in our industry, we need to keep up on the latest news for our clients.
Bottom line: If you can post pictures from the weekend’s latest party on FB while sick, then you can certainly check client emails.
4. The Same Rules Should Apply For In-House Staff and Telecommuters.
Rich Enos, CEO, and Co-Founder of StudyPoint said:
A large percentage of our staff work-from-home, so we encounter these questions about telecommuting frequently. The only acceptable answer to this question is, of course! When you're sick, you're sick, and it would be unfair to have a different standard for employees just because they work-from-home. Given the nature of working from home it can be hard enough for those staff to draw lines between work and personal boundaries, and blurring the expectations around sick time would only make matters worse.
If you want to have a happy, productive stay-at-home workforce, you have to be consistent, and you also need to be understanding of the unique dynamics of working from home. The more you can help telecommuters create clear boundaries, the better off your organization will be.
What great advice and insight. I think the key here is communication and understanding expectations, policies, and procedures before you call in sick. Obviously, taking care of your health is of the utmost importance, and if you need time to heal and recover you should allow yourself that time. Just remember to keep the lines of communication open and call your boss or client as early as possible so that they can make arrangements to cover your responsibilities.
What are your thoughts? Is it okay to call in sick when you work-from-home? Are the rules different for salaried employees and contract and freelance workers? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!