You Should Call Out When You're Sick, Even When You Work From Home. Here's Why

When your office commute means heading to another location within your own home, you can reap a bunch of benefits. According to Flex Jobs, remote workers often experience less stress and improved mental health, while saving travel time. In addition, employees have more control over their work-life balance and can arrange their schedules around personal and family needs. A 2020 survey by the company also uncovered that 51% of the participants were more productive when working from home.

However, working from home's convenience can be part of its downside, as boundaries blur between your work and personal life. While cultivating a designated office space can help solve this issue, some challenges still remain. For instance, if you are already at home, what do you do when you feel a sore throat or other symptoms of an oncoming illness?

As The New York Times notes, the U.S. doesn't have universal paid sick leave, with 33 million people in the country lacking this benefit. Even for those who do, many still feel pressured to work even if they are under the weather. According to a survey by MDLIVE, 51% of remote workers in the United States were worried about taking a sick day, per U.S. News. So why it is better to take a sick day anyway?

If you take a sick day, you'll end up missing less work overall

When you're sick, you may feel compelled to go about business as usual. "We as a culture don't focus enough on self-care; we focus more on doing work," Natasha Bhuyan, MD told Real Simple. Dr. Bhuyan also notes that the added stress of working while sick makes it harder for your immune system to fight off germs. Instead, shift your mindset and work on feeling better instead of your regular work. "It's almost like recovery is its own job," Dr. Bhuyan adds, "So when you are sick, that should be your number-one goal rather than focusing on your place of employment."

If productivity is your concern, a sick day can be helpful. "People have a tendency to be sick and work from home, but that actually can extend the illness," Christy Pruitt-Haynes, the NeuroLeadership Institute's head of performance practice, told U.S. News. In addition, if you do work while sick, you might end up feeling guilty about less-than-optimal performance, per Insider.

Of course, without the added concern of spreading illness to your colleagues, it can be tempting to try and power through when you're not feeling well. To help decide when you should take time off Hillary Landry, Hartford HealthCare's Well-Being Manager, offers this advice: think about what you would do if you were working at an office. If you wouldn't go to an in-person meeting because you're sick, skip the virtual ones, too.

Mental health days have important benefits for WFH employees

If you're working from home, it can sometimes be difficult to unplug from your work day. Besides taking a sick day for colds, and flus, prioritize good examples of self-care and take mental health days as needed. According to Healthline, a 2020 MDLIVE poll discovered 64% of remote workers feel the necessity of taking time off for a mental health day. The Cleveland Clinic notes that increased anxiety, exhaustion, or elevated anger and annoyance are all signs of burnout, signaling the need for time off.

Mental health days frequently are part of the company's paid time off, according to a report by Bloomberg Law. In addition, companies can do their part to make it easier for employees to feel comfortable asking for time away. Wellmark advises employers to make mental health part of an ongoing conversation and allow workers to take time off without asking leading questions.

Self-care days benefit your brain health, and they also have positive benefits for companies and workplace culture. Like any sick day, this time away from work has been shown to increase productivity overall, according to Business News Daily. "[You] are most healthy and productive when both your mind and body are on the same page," Sherese Ezelle, a licensed behavioral therapist, told Healthline. "Your ability to function mentally can say a lot about your ability to be productive and prepared to handle that presentation, provide supervision to a supervisee, or talk with shareholders."