By February 28, 2012 Read More →

When are you too ill to keep working at home?

When are you too ill to keep working at home?I’ve had a particularly unpleasant cold for over a week now, and I’m thoroughly fed-up with it. In fact I decided over the weekend that a week is plenty long enough for a cold and that Monday was going to be the start of a new, healthy week. Unfortunately my body didn’t respond and I ended up back in bed.

I got a sharp kick when I Googled working from home and sickness, moving swiftly from self-pity to appreciating how lucky I am. I may regard a week of slow working as unacceptable when I have so much to do and so many plans to put in place. But for many people, home working isn’t a nice lifestyle choice, it’s the only way they can manage a long-term condition while working. It puts a cold firmly in perspective.

My usual way of coping with a minor illness is to keep the basic stuff going – checking and responding to emails, posting blogs, making minimal social media contact, while getting as much rest as possible and hoping I’m better in time for any major deadlines.

In the light of the last week I’m wondering whether that’s the best approach. Maybe I’d be better now if I’d taken a complete break for a few days. How do you decide when it’s time to stop working for a while? Is it too easy to start again too soon when the home office is so accessible? Have you developed a way to rebuild your strength?

Freelance journalist Huma Qureshi wrote a piece recently about the dangers of even taking a holiday in such a competitive industry, and how everyone always makes such a point of emphasising how busy and in demand they are. If you are self-employed, do you dare admit to being ill at all, or do you fear it might brand you as unreliable?

Posted in: Health

14 Comments on "When are you too ill to keep working at home?"

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  1. Claire Melvin says:

    I’m a baker and had a baking-related injury last week. The upshot is, I still can’t bake and won’t be able to for at least another week. I have a wedding fair this weekend that I can’t cancel and I’ve pulled in a few favours, friends are rallying round and I should (hopefully!) have some cakes to display.

    I’ve learned a valuable lesson though and that’s I’m not Superwoman. I’m also not superhuman. I can’t do everything, despite my thinking that I could and that I was invincible. I’ve had to turn down work (including my local deli, who I bake for 2-3 times a week) and that’s been really hard.

    However, if you’re not well / injured, there’s not much you can do about it. You can look after yourself up to a point, but no-one can keep going (or running near empty) forever.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing to let people see your human side and to show that you are a real person. I think they respect you more for it (that’s how I feel at any rate). If you try and rush back, you’ll just be out longer in the long-run.

    If you’re feeling a bit better, then make plans for things you can do when you’re back on your feet, but don’t be too hard on yourself and if you’re not well, you have to concentrate on getting better. And those opportunities you have to turn down? Well, there will be bigger and better ones round the corner!

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Claire, very sage advice, and I particularly like the thought of people respecting us more for showing some vulnerability.
      Being ill for the last 2 weeks has brought it home to me that I can’t do everything myself any more so my thinking time has included how to involve others.
      Here’s to those bigger and better opportunities!

  2. If I am ill, I stop everything and go to bed. I think you need to give your body a chance to heal and that takes all the energy you have. A cold doesn’t get better if you keep on working, you need to take time off. I hope you will take note of Dr Madge and get better soon Judy. 🙂

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Dr Madge, I didn’t actually have much choice, as the virus obviously decided I wasn’t giving it enough respect and upped the attack. But I’m feeling a lot better now, thanks.

  3. I think I’m like you Judy. I tend to check emails periodically and respond to the most urgent/important, explaining to those where its necessary, but to all where its not relevant.

    Then I try and rest. Being a graphic & web designer my head has to be ‘in it’ otherwise there’s just no point sitting at the computer. I find it’s better to get away from it for a while and come back afresh.

    Hope your back to full strength soon Judy

    • Judy says:

      Yes, one of the worst parts of a cold is that brain-dead feeling, when nothing computes! Someone once said it was like having your head rammed into a bucket – very true!

  4. Mika Castro says:

    I encounter that before. I am so distracted about my colds and tells me to stop but i can’t.

  5. Work at home mom says:

    I have had the flu for 5 days now and everyday I have been working. I keep the laptop next to me in the bed or on the couch and I do a little work, rest a little and work some more. Plus I have my phone and check my emails constantly. I don’t know what would keep me from working.. my father recently passed away and I was working all through while sitting on my moms couch with people all around. It’s a great way to keep your mind off of reality sometimes and to help you keep moving on!

    • Judy says:

      That’s always been my view but this time I learnt sometimes you just need to stop – or your body will give you no choice! I’m sorry to hear about your father and hope you’ve recovered from the flu.

  6. This is so relevant right now! Was really struck down by nasty cold bug over the weekend- and was so grateful for the timing! Being ill when you run your own business is a new challenge for me- its so important to be able to take time to recover and have to admit quite liked the excuse of being able to stay at home when an ’employee’- being able to genuinely not have to do ANY work is really important when you don’t feel well. I just don’t see how that would ever be really possible now that I run my own business! Luckily technology makes it easier to stay in touch and do work remotely but its still work…my own approach so far has been to keep everything ticking along but in a slowed down way…

    • Judy says:

      And I think that works for an occasional minor illness, but you have to be careful that you’re not depleting your resources over time, as I now realise I was. It’s so easy to take good health for granted. I’m going to be much stricter with myself in future!

  7. Kaitlyn says:

    I know that I’m rubbish at taking time off when I really ought to. I know that, by not resting properly, I’m only going to drag an illness out. I’m working on this need for me to perform constantly, even when I have a legitimate reason not to.

    For me, I don’t like feeling incapable or lazy and I find procrastination impossible. The only time I’ve successfully had downtime when I was ill was due to shingles, when it was too painful for me to move.

    I know it’s not healthy though, and it does more damage to myself than can ever be worth it. So I’m practicing patience and learning that it’s O.K. to take time off when I need it.

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Kaitlyn, that’s all very good stuff for me to hear! Actually, I’m thinking that there’s far too much stuff out there – and here on this site! – about getting stuff done. About time I wrote about being kind and patient to ourselves 🙂 Watch this space!

  8. alanc230 says:

    Look, if you’re sitting at your computer and you can’t think straight due to the headache and stuffed-up sinuses, and you’re tossing used tissue after used tissue into the wastebasket, you need to go to bed. Sometimes you must listen to your body – it knows better than you do what it needs.

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