I woke up this morning with a bad case of the flu. It’s the first time I have been sick all year but unfortunately it happened on a day when I have internship hours. What would you do? Would you stay home or go to your internship anyway?
I’m an older student who has some experience with being occasionally ill and its etiquette in the work place. It’s rare that I’m sick but I’m of the opinion that sometimes staying home to take care of yourself is unavoidable and the responsible thing to do. Your fellow work mates will be much less resentful if you don’t expose them to your germs. They really don’t want to catch your flu!
I didn’t always give myself permission to take a day off when ill. I’ll bet I’m like many other overachieving students at the University of Michigan. A time or two every year I would wear an illness like a badge of honor and show up to work/school with my nose running like a faucet while contaminating all who had the misfortune of coming into my path. I regret that and genuinely apologize to those who may have become ill because of those less than stellar decisions. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was endangering anyone else’s health. I was trying to show my professors/employers that I was dedicated and driven.
Now that I’m an older person who has had more experience in the work place, I have come to understand there is an etiquette to illness. What I have learned as an employee can be applied to internship situations. It seems to me that most employers are reasonable people who don’t want employees/interns to infect others by coming to work while ill. They won’t think less of someone who takes a day or two off when they are genuinely under the weather, provided you follow a few simple rules. None of these guidelines are earthshaking revelations but I offer them just in case you’ve never thought about it from your employers point of view before.
- Only call in sick when you’re legitimately ill. Don’t lie if you need a personal day. It’s OK to ask for a personal day if you need one but it’s something you have to ask for in advance and you need your supervisor’s prior approval to take one. Personal days should not be confused with sick days.
- Most illnesses pass in a day or two but in the rare event that an illness lasts three or more days you should visit a doctor and have them write you a note to bring to work upon your return. Employers get suspicious of being lied to if you are sick often or for long periods of time. Give them documentation so they know you are not trying to shirk your duties if you are sick for three or more days.
- If your job doesn’t demand that someone do it in a particular time frame, offer to make up the hours you have missed once you are feeling better. If you have a job where someone will need to cover for you while you are gone, help your employer figure out who that person might be. It pays to cover for fellow employees/interns when they are out. These will be the people who will likely return the favor and cover for you should you ever need it. One of the main reasons managers dislike when their people are ill, is not because they resent them taking time off but because they have to sort out how your work will get done while you are gone. If you help them solve that problem, they’re less likely to have an issue if you are ill once in a blue moon. Getting sick happens to everyone just make sure to be considerate and honest about taking time off.