It may seem like the most obvious process - you catch the flu or a stomach bug, and you take the day off - but many Americans are increasing unsure of how to use their sick days. For one, they're more reluctant to recognize their illnesses as something that warrants staying at home for a day or two. They may not realize that their maladies are contagious until the whole office is sniffling and coughing. Several factors contribute to this problem, including the fear of falling far behind on work, appearing apathetic about their position, or the financial strain caused by taking an unpaid sick day. You may not be able to disregard these issues, but you should also consider your symptoms before making the decision to report to work. That means you need to check your temperature and see if you're running a fever. Although you can be contagious several days before your temperature spikes, this is a time-honored test to determine whether you should head to the office.
If you feel a particularly bad cold coming on, and you suspect you may be out the next day, contact your supervisor and your coworkers. They'll appreciate the heads-up, which can only work in your favor if they need to cover for you. Look at it this way: When the inevitable happens, and you're simply too ill to think about going to work, you'll still be acting professionally, even if you feel awful.
During your day at home, you may be occupied with going to the doctor's office or pharmacy in search of relief from your symptoms, or you might simply sleep the day away in your body's effort to banish whatever bug has you under the weather. If you can keep your eyes open, however, and if your line of work permits, you may consider working from home for the day. You will probably want to avoid particularly mentally taxing tasks, but you may find that simple organizational tasks such as sorting through email can alleviate the backlog you'll likely encounter when returning to the office.
There are many "dos" for staying home: Getting some rest, taking a hot shower, and drinking plenty of fluids. There are also several things to avoid, however. You may find a day of taking it slow to be insufferably boring, and the Internet may be a welcome distraction from your misery. But stop and think before you update your status or post something that reflects you being anything but sick as a dog. After all, you don't want your employer or coworkers thinking you were simply goofing off when you were supposed to be recuperating from a bug. Along the same lines, you may not want to saunter around stores or restaurants that day: Even if you're still under the weather, if an officemate spots you, it may lead to an awkward conversation the next day.
Upon returning to work, be sure to roll up your sleeves and jump right in. Chances are you still won't be feeling completely healthy, but putting your nose to the grindstone immediately can help relieve your backlog and show those around you that you mean business.
By taking your illness seriously, getting some rest, and following some common sense, you can return to the office and get right back up to speed in no time.