Working while sick is becoming more common, especially with people working from home, but it isn’t good for you health and wellbeing. Many people are settling into their new way of working, with more people working from home than ever before. While remote working may provide a greater level of flexibility and many benefits for both employers and employees, it could lead to a rise in people working while ill. Although it may seem easy to carry on working from home when you’ve got a cold or aren’t feeling great, it’s not ideal for your health in the long run. While you may want to stay on top of your workload, especially if you’d only be commuting to the sofa anyway, you’ll probably find that you aren’t able to get as much done and you could end up feeling worse. On average, those who work from home take fewer sick days than those who work in an office environment. This is likely because they don’t have to deal with the stress of a commute and can take things a bit easier than they would in the office when not feeling well. They also don’t need to worry about spreading an illness to their co-workers. However, many people feel that they need to work when sick due to their company’s policies and culture. If an organisation doesn’t provide sick pay, taking time off could put an employee under financial pressure. If a business has a culture of ‘powering through and an expectation that you will always meet deadlines no matter what, it may seem that sick days are frowned upon. It may seem easier to simply carry on working and recuperate at the weekend, but this could have long term effects on your health; as well as impact your quality of work. Presenteeism You may think that simply showing up, even when feeling well, is going to be enough but if you’re not feeling up to working, should you really be working? Presenteeism is when people go to work when they have physical or mental health problems and should be taking some time off. It is largely associated with jobs that have large workloads or people who base a lot of their self-esteem on performance. It can also be caused by pressure from managers or the company to work hard no matter what. While it can be seen as dedication to the job, being at work when you’re not feeling well can result in a drop in productivity. If you’re not feeling well, you’re unlikely to be able to work at your usual levels and will likely find that tasks take longer and are not completed to your usual standards. Long-term health impact Presenteeism doesn’t just have an effect on the quality of work being done. It can also negatively impact employee health and wellbeing. Working while ill, whether at home or in the office, can impact your overall health and lead to exhaustion. When you’re not well, you need to take time to recover in order to build your immune system and recharge yourself. When it comes to mental health, continuing to work can make conditions worse over time and lead to people feeling overwhelmed. They may be less likely to seek help as it could mean being signed off work for an extended period of time. Research has found that if a person has worked while ill in the previous three months, they are more likely to experience a decline in psychological wellbeing. As a result, they are more likely to be irritable or have used making decisions. This can last for two months for many while others could suffer from depression and mental health issues two years later. Company policies Presenteeism has almost become the new normal due to companies wanting to reduce sickness absences. Organisations might ask people to work from home or see how they get on at work as an alternative to calling in sick as this means some work is still done and a role doesn’t need to be covered. This is resulting in many employees feeling as though they cannot take a sick day. However, company policies, like paid sick leave, also have a big impact. If people do not get paid sick leave, they are more likely to work when ill whereas those with paid sick leave will work fewer days when they are unwell. Back to work interviews following a period of illness can also ensure managers and companies are taking the right steps to support those that are unwell. Checking in with someone who has had to take a sick day to ensure they are well enough to be back at work or if they need any flexible arrangements to better support them. This could help avoid future time off for the same illness. Unfortunately, with so many people working from home currently, it can be hard for managers to assess when their team should be taking a sick day. While someone can be sent home when they are obviously ill, this is unlikely to happen when working remotely. This means it is more important than ever for employees to be open about their health and also for companies to encourage time off when ill – especially with the impact that working in isolation can have on mental health. Final thoughts Ultimately, it is always better to take time off if you are feeling unwell – despite pressure from your company to continue working. It’s more likely that you’ll overcome your illness when you give yourself time to recuperate, resulting in fewer sick days over time. Even if seems easy enough to take it easy and carry on working from home, if you would call in sick if you were in the office, you should take that as a sign to call in sick now.