Recently I did something I rarely do. I took a sick day.
I pride myself on being a good listener for my coaching clients, but I guess I haven’t been listening to myself very well lately. For the past few weeks I’ve been pushing myself to keep going despite feeling sick-ish, knowing how much I have to do. Finally, my immune system gave in and I had no choice but to slow down.
When is the last time you took a full day off because of an illness? And I’m not talking about just not physically going to work—I mean not working. I’m guessing it’s been a while.
That day, I did nothing. And I discovered something… It was difficult to keep myself still and quiet to get the rest I needed to get well.
I felt a wide range of emotions: guilt for not working on the myriad things I have to do, frustration at myself and my body for betraying me, boredom in my unproductive state, and apathy. Mostly, I just wanted to feel like myself again so I could get back to my normal life.
At one point (the boredom stage) I accidentally deleted the entire contents of my DVR. Silly, yes, but it reminded me that when we are not at our best mentally and physically, it’s easier to make mistakes. At least it was my TV and not an important work document!
I also felt grateful that I could afford myself the day off to recover.
Not long ago in my corporate days, I rarely took sick days. I would occasionally break down and admit that I was better off at home than at work when I was sick.
But more often than not, I would end up sending multiple emails, working on projects, or even participating in meetings by phone because I feared falling behind. I worried about the countless emails that would pile up, not being available to my team, or worse, my boss.
In other words, I kept working because I felt like I had no time to be sick.
How often do you think your employees come to work when they’d really be better off at home?
Presenteeism is becoming more and more of an issue in the workplace. It can be hard for busy people to want to take time off. Ambitious employees don’t want to let anyone down. If they’re part of a project team, employees may not feel like they can miss a day without unfairly shifting their workload to a co-worker.
Perhaps you’ve felt this way, too. As leaders, it can be hard to let go of control and trust those around you to carry on in your absence.
The truth is the world won’t burn down if you’re out for one day. In fact, you could be saving yourself extra work trying to undo mistakes you made when you weren’t at your best.
As a leader, you must support and model the type of behavior you expect of your employees. (Hopefully, you don’t expect employees to come to work when they’re ill. If so, you might want to read Are You Promoting a Workaholic Culture?) Demonstrate your respect for them by encouraging employees to take care of themselves.
I now understand, and coach many leaders on the importance of taking needed respite so that you can fully engage and be productive later.
You’ve worked to groom your team and to empower them to make decisions that you support. You could even leverage this opportunity to allow your team to shine in your absence. I bet you’ll be amazed at how well they perform to make you proud.
So, the next time you’re feeling sub-par remember to listen to yourself and take the time you need to recover (or go on vacation, or take the weekend off). Your productivity and results will reflect your full engagement.
If you’re interested in changing your own work habits to create a more productive environment for yourself and those you lead, schedule a Complimentary Discovery Call with me to discuss your current challenges and to get clear on what your next steps may be.
You can also download my free gift, “The Rule-Breaker’s Guide to Managing Your Energy at Work” to begin taking back control of your energy and success!