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How to call in sick when working from home

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
Remote work has changed how Aussies feel about calling in sick. (Source: Getty)
Remote work has changed how Aussies feel about calling in sick. (Source: Getty)

Remote work offers several upsides, such as cutting down on commute time, getting domestic tasks done or wearing whatever you want – but it’s also disrupted work routines, productivity and raised stress levels.

And according to new research commissioned by Panadol, our ability to take time off for ourselves has taken a hit, with more than a third (35 per cent) of workers say they feel too scared to take sick leave and more than half (51 per cent) saying they are more stressed and struggle to get things done.

Australia’s national medical officer has effectively banned workers from showing up to work sick, especially during the pandemic.

“Everybody stays home when they’re unwell, no matter how mild your cold or your cough, stay home when you’re unwell, and please get a COVID test,” Dr Brendan Murphy said last week.

“No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. Please.”

But remote work means if you’re coming down with the cold, you’re in the comfort of your own home – and presents new complications to the concept of ‘calling in sick’.

Workplace well-being and resilience expert Springfox CEO Stuart Taylor said there was “a certain irony” in being scared of calling in sick, given we make that call from home anyway.

“Feeling scared perhaps stems from concern about ‘Will my boss believe me?’ or ‘How do they know I am actually sick?’” he told Yahoo Finance.

“For whatever reason, it stems from an unvalidated assumption about what the leader is thinking,” he said.

But this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and increase trust with your manager.

“Trust is the human antidote to fear. When trust is in place, both parties assume the best. Without trust, the opposite is true,” he said.

“With respect to the need to take sick leave, communication and transparency is key. If anything, a leader's responsiveness is hopefully going to be higher given the health crisis and organisational change that is upon us.”

Make a point of prioritising your well-being

Indeed career insights expert Jay Munro said working from home – especially if it’s a new practice for workers and bosses – will often blur the lines between our professional and personal lives.

“We suddenly find these two worlds enmeshed, which can make it very difficult to switch off,” he told Yahoo Finance.

The research also revealed that more than two thirds (68 per cent) of workers find it difficult to switch off from work, and nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of Aussies have worked extra hours.

“The fact that many are effectively confined at home may make us feel guilty if we're unable or unwilling to work outside typical business hours, and this feeling may extend to taking personal or annual leave.”

But it’s particularly important, especially during self-isolation, that we take time for our health and well-being whether it’s for physical or mental health, he said, adding that learning to draw boundaries would be important.

“It's also important to consciously build structure into our new way of working so that it fits with individual circumstances and clearly defines when we work and when we have down-time.”

Teams and managers will have to evolve along with the situation, Munro said, so everyone should keep a mindset of adapting to the circumstance.

“Flexible working hours can be a key strategy, especially for those suddenly tasked with childcare – we recommend talking to your manager upfront about a timetable that allows you to perform at your job while balancing the personal responsibilities they may not be aware of, and allowing time for rest.”

Echoing Munro, not-for-profit meditation app Smiling Mind CEO and doctor Addie Wootten told Yahoo Finance workers are feeling insecure about their jobs during the pandemic, and this was affecting their decisions about taking time off.

“People are naturally taking every step they can to perform at work, and the research shows that this is impacting how we feel about taking sick days.

“However this shouldn’t be the case, in these uncertain times it’s more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing, and taking sick days when needed is an important part of that,” she said.

Panadol has partnered with Smiling Mind on a free meditation program called ‘Mindful Month’ during June designed to lower stress levels, improve sleep, manage your emotions and foster better relationships.

Tune into Episode 4 of the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club: Live Online series on Thursday 21st May 10am AEST.
Tune into Episode 4 of the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club: Live Online series on Thursday 21st May 10am AEST.

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