Working When Sick


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Your Corporate Black Girl
40 percent of adults in the U.S. stated they had gone to work when they were sick within the past year.

A cold, the flu, the sniffles, are the gross parts of working with other humans. They are the modern-day office form of Thanos: * Finger Snaps * they are “Inevitableeeeee”.

When Pinterest suggests that we stay in our sparkling clean home with warm tea and fuzzy blankets, the thought is amazing when the thunderstorm of a headache isn’t rocking. The reality, however, is that staying home isn’t always possible or practical. Some people are lucky enough to receive excused sick time off while even fewer receive paid sick time off. At my previous employer, we were given 10 sick / vacation days a year. I realized that (5) sick days are a lot more than many in the workforce. Especially compared to those in retail (which I formerly was). Even while knowing that, the fear was put into me to not ‘waste them’. ‘Wasting’ a sick day looked to me like taking off for a common cold or something seemingly harmless. According to research collected by, “40 percent of adults in the U.S. stated they had gone to work when they were sick within the past year. ”This data tells me that I'm not the only one who has felt the unfortunate fear. Whether you are one of the 40% out of choice or default, there are things you can do to make working while sick more bearable.

Give Notice

Even though you’re not calling off, it’s good to give your team leader a heads up for the state you’re in. Depending on your conditions they can probably make adjustments for you. It will also help to not have people look at you as if Medusa walked into the office because you're not looking or feeling your best. This isn't about making excuses or getting sympathy, it is about setting a clear understanding of the expectations of both you and your employer for the day.

Streamline Your Tasks

During the night before or early morning, map out what you have to do for the day and simplify it as much as possible. I realize that the demands don't change because one person fell ill but you have to remember the long run. You will only produce your best work when you are your best self. If a task can be pushed off to a later time, do so. It is also important to make your list clear to your team leader so that you both are on the same page.

Seek Help

If your employer has access to free / discounted health services, contact that department. If you have department teammates that can help you carry out your duties for the say in simple ways, reach out to them. You can repay them with donuts next week.


Try to find a work area that can better suit you. Search for an unused office or conference room. A place that you have some control of either the sound, lighting, temperature or even sent can help you focus better while your body is sensitive during sickness. Don’t be afraid to ask either. It’s more than likely that your team will also want you far away as possible (no offense). It’s a win-win because you're still in reach for any needs they may have, and you don't have to feel bad for possibly burdening them with your requests. Pro tip: find a space near a restroom.

Stay Hydrated

Toss the sugary drinks and coffee. Tea and water (and whatever it is your doctor recommends) is the only thing you should be drinking to stay hydrated. You should be drinking all day, every hour as much as possible. Yes, you will be peeing like crazy but you have to flush whatever is icky out of your system. Our immune systems do a lot of work as best they can help yours out. With this in mind, don’t forget to eat. The sick days at work where I force myself into activity (like heating and eating my lunch) usually end much better than the days I struggle-sleep at the keyboard. Eat as unprocessed as possible and try to get something green in your system.

Clean Everything

Find the cleaning closet and request Clorox wipes or spray. You have to not only clean your trail but the now germy desk you live it. Wipe down any “original” germs and be sure to sanitize your area before you leave for the day. It is also important to remember to wash your hands often. If you haven’t already mastered the habit of not touching your face, expect to touch it a lot while you’re sick. Try and wash your hands every few hours and rehydrate them with lotion for comfort.

Dress In Layers

Next time you’re adding to your work wardrobe, shop for comfortable, work-appropriate (and if you care, fashionable) work clothes. This is the set that you only wear when you're sick so that there is no thought to it. I have the most c o m f o r t a b l e dark denim jeggings I found from Marshalls, a supportive sports bra, and a sports-designed flexible blue t-shirt that is my “Sick Girl Uniform”, okay? Flats that fit well, and a beautiful curly unit that I plop on my head every time I can't even force myself to care. Having a selection of clothes like this always set aside and clean make sick days much more enjoyable. Take a soft blanket-like cardigan with you so you can layer up when you get the chills. A cotton or sports material shirt that provides cooling or wicks sweat away will help with the hot flashes that can come with sickness.

Pack Light

Lastly, only bring the essentials in your work bag. If there are laptop chargers at work, leave yours at home. If you don’t need a certain folder at night, leave it at the office. Adjust your work bag accordingly. Also, use your experiences with previous colds to know what to pack to work. My essentials include Excedrin, Pepto Bismol tablets, chapstick, mouth wash, a few Theraflu packets, and Mucinex. I have never needed these products all at once (if you do, you may need to be in the hospital, not the office) but it’s great to have them all there for security. I’m now at a point where I have everything in a cute floral print bag that’s labeled as my “sick bag”. Remember to re-up your products every few months and you’ll be ready for any unexpected sickness at the office.

Try these tips next time you can’t call out at work when you’re sick. If you’re dealing with a cold right now, get well soon!

Jasmine is a Social Media Manager in Dayton, Ohio. She has experience in digital marketing and public relations. Jasmine has been in the corporate world since May 2018. She spends a lot of her time working, editing and organizing. She finds a lot of joy in tweeting, snacking, and Beyonce! Her goal is to change lives and help creatives have the ability to touch the world.

Twitter: @jaslamarcole

Instagram: @jasminemilumpr

Please visit: for to learn more about Jasmine’s work.

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