It’s a conversation we’ve all had with ourselves at some point: should I actually call in sick today? Or can I just push through?
Although the Covid pandemic should have left all of us more convinced that ever that we must not work if we’re unwell – even if just to avoid spreading germs to our colleagues – this healthy attitude could soon be undone by the UK Government.
Essentially, the report claims health professionals would be encouraged to “focus on recommending ways people with long-term illnesses can continue to work with support rather than using sick notes to authorise them to drop out of the labour market entirely”.
Around 2.32 million people were signed off with long-term health conditions last summer, compared to 1.95 million in the summer of 2019, according to the Labour Force Survey.
A source allegedly told the newspaper that the “mental health benefits of work are well established” and that the government wants to encourage as many workers as possible to stay in employment with relevant support.
It comes as unemployment figures remain at an all-time low – partly because so many people (especially those over 50) have voluntarily taken themselves out of the workforce altogether since the pandemic.
Going to work while visibly ill is also known as “presenteeism”, and it’s only getting more common.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development noticed in its most recent report that 53% of organisations in 2022 noticed staff coming in when ill, compared to 45% in 2021 and 32% in 2020 and 2019.
And, while the government is focused on growing the UK’s economy (at a time when it’s flatlining), remember – it’s still important to take time off work when you aren’t well.
After two winters of lockdowns, the number of flu or cold infections soared as our immune systems had not been exposed to new germs for a while.
So even if you don’t test positive for Covid, but you’re still feeling pretty grim, you don’t mean you have to power through work.
Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist at digital pharmacy Medino, previously told HuffPost UK, when you’re ill “it’s important to remember to take time away from ‘the office’, even if your office might be your dining table” – including calling in sick.
“Taking time off allows us to recharge our bodies and minds, often increasing our ability to work to a better level afterwards,” explained Guerrini. “It’s so important to make sure we’re taking real breaks so that we don’t overwork ourselves, resulting in stress.”
She said: “The main sign that you are too ill to work is when you simply cannot do the tasks of your job. You may have too much difficulty concentrating or be unable to lift the things you need to.”
Allen said this applies to mental health, too.
Watch out for signs of exhaustion within yourself, as it means your body needs time to heal, she said.
You need to be conscious of symptoms of burnout as well, such as feel fatigued most of the time, feeling helpless, pessimistic, have self-doubt and procrastinating, to name just a few.