Taking a Sick Day When You Work Remotely is Not as Satisfying

It’s a bit embarrassing taking a sick day when you work remotely. Because what you’re saying to your boss is that you can’t manage to sit down at your desk and press tiny little buttons on your computer. That’s all the way in the other room. I might die en route.

Obviously, part of the reason we take sick days when working in an office is so we don’t give everyone the plague and cause the company to file for bankruptcy. So when you remove that element of “I’m doing you all a favor by not coming in,” it becomes hard to justify. It’s pretty difficult to get your coworkers sick over Slack and Zoom, though I’ve tried.

What’s worse is that, while taking a sick day for an in-person job can be incredibly satisfying and relaxing, it just doesn’t feel as good for a remote position. Having to leave the house and go to work is half the reason you call in sick. That’s too much effort. I don’t even like to put the garbage out on the curb while sick.

When Work Is Four Feet Away

Staying home when you can be all the way over at the office with the bright fluorescent lights and awful coffee and that one guy who talks to you every time you pass his desk feels wonderful, and a small part of you is almost glad you’re sick so you don’t have to be there. Recovering while wrapped in forty blankets is much better than sitting in a cubicle where there’s a draft.

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When you take a sick day with remote work, your computer is right there, taunting you, beckoning you to just sit down, work a little, and stop this sick day nonsense. That’s why, whenever I take a sick day with remote work, I put my computer in the closet, though it always beeps in the distance like “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

The level of satisfaction in taking a sick day seems to depend on how much effort is involved in both getting to work and what you do. For instance, I worked in labor for years — as a mover, in shipping-receiving factories, and so on — and calling in sick for those jobs was more satisfying than anything. It’s like not going to the gym times a thousand.

With remote work, you tend to spend much of the day under the covers, binge-watching some show while binge-slurping soup, and later think, “Damn it, I could have sat down at my computer.”

Some Remote Sick Days Make Sense

Of course, there are plenty of valid reasons to take sick day with remote work. Working while you’re sick can slow down the healing process, and sometimes we know that we’re so out of it that we can’t concentrate and will only take way too long to produce terrible work. Then our boss will think it’s us, not the sickness.

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You tend to keep reminding your boss and coworkers that you’re sick as an excuse for whatever crap you producing, and realize it would have been simpler to just leave your laptop closed.

One time at an old remote job, I had probably the worst fever I’ve ever experienced, but dumb pride caused me to insist on working, even as my boss told me to just take the day off. I sat down at my computer, and the last thing I remember is waking up in bed hours later in a cold sweat. I told her what happened, and she was like, “See.”

Can you imagine if I had done that without telling her that I was sick? She would have assumed I had a drinking problem.

Tips for the Best Remote Sick Day

It seems counterintuitive to recovering, but if you want to get the most out of your remote work sick day, it may be best to actually go outside. Go to the park and cough on a tree, buy more soup and cold medication than you actually need at the grocery store, go for a drive in the country and almost get into an accident when you sneeze–whatever you decide, it will provide a separation from your home work environment, and you’ll actually feel like you took the day off.

Just know that when you return to your remote work the next day, you won’t get the hero’s welcome like you once did at the office. “I didn’t even know you were gone,” your coworker will say.

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