Cold and flu season is in full swing, and at some point, you may find yourself wondering whether your sore throat warrants calling in sick and missing a day of work. Most Americans are reluctant to take a sick day, either because they won’t be paid for the time they miss or they are worried about falling behind on important projects. In fact, a 2013 survey found that 90% of employed Americans continue going to work even when they know they have a contagious illness.
While it may be the norm to soldier through a cold or even the flu at work, it’s worth thinking twice before you go to the office with a virus. According to The Harvard Business Review, presenteeism (i.e. going to work while sick) costs the US an estimated $150 billion a year in lost productivity. Not only can an illness affect your ability to work, it can spread to coworkers, impacting their productivity.
So how do you know when you should stay home? Here are five signs.
You Are Just Beginning to Experience Symptom
Although it may seem counterintuitive, you are most contagious during the first few days of a cold or flu virus, when you are experiencing the first signs of illness. If you wake up with a scratchy throat, headache, and congestion, it may be a good idea to stay home.
You Have Body Aches
In some cases, you may find yourself wondering whether you have a contagious infection or just allergy symptoms. If your runny nose and sore throat are accompanied by full body aches, this could be a sign that you have more than just allergies.
You Have a High Fever
Normal human body temperature ranges from 97.8 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and if your temperature is higher than this, it’s a sign that your body is combatting an infection. It’s generally a good idea to stay home from work if your temperature is over 100 degrees and to see a doctor if it’s over 102. Even if you don’t have a thermometer at home, you can often tell you have a fever based on symptoms such as chills and excessive sweating.
Your Sickness Is Impacting Your Ability to Work
In addition to thinking about being contagious, you should also think about how your illness will affect your productivity. If your sickness is making you feel fatigued and foggy, it may be in your best interest to stay home and rest up, rather than going to work, where you may risk making errors or making a bad impression on customers or clients.
Your Medication Is Impacting Your Ability to Work
If you’re taking a medication like a cold or flu medicine for your illness, check the side effects on the label. Some medications can cause dizziness and drowsiness, so you may need to stay home from work until you know how the drug affects you, especially if your work requires you to drive, operate heavy machinery, or perform any other tasks that require complete alertness.
Worried that you’ll miss too much work by staying home sick? Try talking to your manager to see if there’s any work that you can do from home; many companies allow employees to telecommute on days that they aren’t feeling well. Even if you can’t get work done from home, most employers would much prefer that you stay home while contagious rather than coming into the office and potentially infecting other employees.