Monday Mornings with Madison


Cough-cough. Achoo. Ache. Sniffle. Few things are more uncomfortable than a summer cold at work. During the winter, people understand and expect to get sick or have colleagues who are sick. But in the summer, with the sun shining and everyone sporting a beach tan, it is particularly irritating to be sick. Somehow, summer colds generate less empathy. It doesn’t seem to matter that germs know no seasons and are year-round nuisances.

Working when you’re sick presents a two-fold problem. First, how do you perform well when your body hurts, your nose is running, or you have a sore throat? Second, how do you keep from spreading your illness to everyone else at work, coworkers and customers alike? Obviously, if you are very sick, you should stay home until you are well. But what if you just have a run-of-the-mill cold with minor discomforts… not so sick that you have to stay in bed, but not well either? How do you get through a workday when you feel blah?

Let’s examine each issue. First, how do you do your best when you don’t feel your best? Working when you are sick is tough… no doubt about it. Here are some tips to help you when you are sick at work.

1. First things first. Inform your boss and coworkers that you are under the weather. They will be more understanding about you productivity if they know you are feeling poorly.
2. If you have a job that can be done from home, ask if you can do your work from home for even part of the day. The less time you’re at the office spreading germs, the better for everyone anyway.
3. Take over-the-counter medicines that are specifically for daytime use for your ailment. These medicines won’t get rid of your symptoms, but they can provide enough relief to help you get through the day without making you feel drowsy.
4. Drink herbal tea (even if you’re normally a coffee drinker). Most types of tea made from herbs instead of tea leaves are renowned for their medicinal properties. The tea will provide not only some caffeine to help boost your sagging energy level, but will also sooth your throat and provide some healing qualities.
5. If you’re nursing a cold or virus, drink lots of other fluids too, especially water. Dehydration will make you feel more run down. Staying hydrated not only will help keep your energy level up, but will also help flush out toxins.
6. Don’t plan to do anything taxing during your lunch break. Use that time to rest. You might even want to go outdoors if the sun is shining and absorb some Vitamin D for about 20 minutes.
7. If you have to put in a full day, break your work into manageable segments of 20-30 minutes and take short breaks to stretch, drink fluids, and pull yourself together. While the frequent breaks may appear to diminish your productivity, it will make it possible for you to make it through the full day instead of having to go home early.

None of these things will make you feel ‘not sick’ but they can help you make it through a sick day at work. 

If you’re battling something mundane like a cold, here are some tips to ensure you don’t spread your illness to everyone else.

1. Bring a box of disinfecting wipes with you to work. Wipe down any equipment you use (after you use it) that is used by others such as a copy machine, fax machine, or postage meter.
2. If your nose is running, keep a box of tissues nearby and place all used tissue in a plastic bag you can tie up at the end of the day. No need to get the cleaning staff sick either.
3. If you have a cough, wear clothing with at least ¾ sleeve and cough into your sleeve. That will keep you from spreading germs with your hands.
4. Wash your hands frequently. If you can’t wash your hands, keep a bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer at your desk and use a squirt each time you are walking away from your desk.
5. Do not use anyone else’s phone or desk when you are sick with a cold or flu.
6. Be considerate and stay away from the company break room or kitchen, if you can. If you must go in there to get or warm up food, do what you must and leave as quickly as possible.

Last but not least, don’t go to work if you answer yes to any of these questions:

  1. Am I contagious or running a fever?
  2. Am I so sick that I am unable to carry out my work duties?
  3. Will resting at home help my body overcome the illness much sooner?
  4. Am I taking medications that can impair my ability to think, work, operate machinery, or drive?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, call in sick and spare everyone else from catching what you have. Calling in sick involves contacting your supervisor or HR director (don’t be a coward and leave a message) as soon as possible and apologize for not being able to make it to work.

“Much of your pain is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.” Kahlil Gibran

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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