Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
July 21, 2008
‘Out Sick’ is Out!
think you should work when you’re sick. You probably think I’m Hitler.
But work isn’t what it used to be, and because of that, neither is
About two weeks ago, I needed some information from a guy. The guy
e-mailed me the information, but it was incomplete. When I sent him a
reply letting him know that I needed some of it explained more fully, I
got no reply for two business days. So I called him. I got his standard
voice mail greeting, so I left a message. Again, no reply.
Three days later, I called him again. This time, he answered his phone,
and was probably sorry he had.
was out sick two days!” he said. “Then when I got back I was in
meetings, and since then I’ve been swamped. I’m just now trying to get
let me see if I have this straight. Dingleberry comes down with
something, informs his boss that he won’t be in to work . . . and that’s
it. E-mails and voice mails directed to his attention end up in an
indefinite Out Sick Limbo. If his attention is needed on any matter
whatsoever, too bad.
is Out Sick.
Now, let’s assume for the moment that when he left work on the last day
before his affliction hit, he had no idea this was coming. So he didn’t
have time to ask anyone to cover for him. He didn’t have time to pick up
the phone on his desk and change his voice mail greeting or forward his
The next morning, Dingleberry wakes up with the sniffles, the sweats or
a knot in his stomach. He calls the boss and says he can’t come to work.
He will be Out Sick.
Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that when you are Out Sick,
you are also off the hook for any responsibility whatsoever. You cannot
be expected to make a call, take a call, check with someone or – God
forbid – work on anything. Regardless of what may need to be done, you
don’t have to do it. Not when you’re Out Sick.
Now there is sick and there is sick. Having surgery, rushed to
the ER, on the verge of death – that’s one thing. That’s not what we’re
talking about here. We’re talking about most applications of Out Sick,
which mean you feel achy, funny or strangely fatigued. (Did I mention
hung over? Never mind!)
Settled wisdom of the work world is that achy-, funny- or strangely
fatigued-feeling people need to stay home, recover and get their rest.
And that means they can’t get any work done, because a) work happens at
work, which they can’t get to when they’re getting their rest; and b)
work is inconsistent with rest.
This thinking certainly made sense as recently as the late 1980s. But
does it today?
How many people lack Internet access at home? Dingleberry has a MySpace
and a Facebook. He must have a computer at home. He wouldn’t be doing
those things at work, now would he? Most every voice mail system
allows for remote access from your home and cell phone.
you can’t access your work e-mail remotely from your home computer, you
could certainly call or e-mail a colleague and ask them to check it for
you or forward it to you. (“Now Bob, don’t read any e-mails from someone
called Roxy. They’re, uh, a mistake! Yeah. A mistake.”)
Basically, there are few impediments to doing one’s job for a day or two
from home. But is it reasonable for your boss to expect you to attend to
things when your head is stuffy, your nose is running and you’re doubled
over in some sort of nondescript pain?
This boss says it is. Reading your e-mail and talking on the phone for a
few minutes isn’t going to delay your recovery, and you’d concentrate
just as hard on that online Scrabble game you’ll sit on the couch and
play for three hours.
Hey. I’m paying you for the sick day. If you want a vacation day, take a
vacation day. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to retire the
concept of Out Sick. We’ll just replace it with Working Remotely While
Panting and Wheezing.
Something tells me any company that enacts this policy will see sick day
usage reduced to approximately zero. With bosses like me around, being
sick is just no fun.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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