Sick over the weekend- when to do chores?
July 13, 2019 5:33 PM   Subscribe

So I’m sick this weekend- I was out of action yesterday and am trying to rest today. But I have a whole pile of chores to do. If I rest today, I will probably be more or less well again tomorrow. If I am well enough to go back to work, is it ethical of me to take the day off to do the chores? If not when am I meant to do them? I live alone and there is no one else who could step in.
posted by EatMyHat to Work & Money (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Of course it’s ethical to rest when you’re sick. The realities of life don’t always make it possible, but it is definitely ethical. I definitely agree that it’s more efficient to just rest one day than to delay the healing process by trying to work through it.

In this scenario, I make a list of all the chores that need to be done. If I feel especially motivated, and more importantly well enough to do this, I’ll set the timer for an hour and knock off the easiest chores, things like dusting or sorting mail. If at any point I start feeling crappy, I stop. One can get a surprising number of things done in an hour, so that should help with the “slacker guilt”.

The next day, knock off the rest of the chores at a very leisurely pace. If there are any tasks that are really physical (e.g. mowing the lawn, vacuuming stairs, grocery runs), either do them first, or maybe just agree with yourself to wait until you’re fully healed to do them. The Pomodoro method is good for this: 20-30 minutes of chores followed by an hour of rest.

If you have any chores left over after tomorrow, schedule one or two of them to be done right after you get home from work.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:45 PM on July 13, 2019

if you have sick days available, and you want to take a day, you take it. it is no more unethical to use your benefits than to cash your paycheck. how could it possibly be.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:47 PM on July 13, 2019 [41 favorites]

I live alone and often have a similar situation, and usually the fact that I'm stressing over the decision is telling I need more rest.

And every time I try to push it and do chores, I regret it because I feel so much worse and couldn't work anyway.

Take the time you need to be well in all ways.
posted by mermaidcafe at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

If you can take a sick day without causing problems for future you... (i.e. you might run out before the end of the year, missing Monday in particular will cause major problems for some project) and you don't work a job where it might be a problem if someone sees you out and about when you're sick... take it!

It's not unethical. I know how you feel. But it's not unethical to fully recover and not push yourself when you don't feel well. I used to feel guilty when I called in sick on a day that I knew I could push through it, but just didn't want to. But then I realized, I got better SO much faster when I just gave myself that extra day to sleep. Much less of that '3 weeks of malingering' than when I just stuffed myself full of Sudafed and zombied through the day.
posted by Caravantea at 5:55 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I had unlimited sick days, every six months I would take a mental health day and call in sick even though I wasn’t physically sick.

I figure this keeps me productive at work and as long as I’m not abusing it, totally acceptable practice.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:20 PM on July 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

I think the question is: If the OP rests on one day, can the OP take the next day as a sick day from work, in order to do personal chores?

I think that is OK, especially if you are not burdening anyone else by your absence.
posted by NotLost at 6:22 PM on July 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would not call it unethical at all to do this, but from what I've seen of the corporate world, the standard thing to do seems to be that if you aren't required to provide doctor's notes or whatnot, go ahead and take the day, but what you say is "I'm getting over being sick", not "I'm doing my laundry because I have no clothes to wear to work because I was sick all weekend," even if the latter is more accurate. I'm somebody who's inclined to be chatty and share more and learned early that people can be judgmental, particularly people who, for example, think nothing of taking personal/vacation days for sick kids but get weird about the fact that I occasionally need to take a day to recover because I don't have a spouse to pick up all the slack. Taking time to care for you is not actually different, but be vague about it unless you're really sure your coworkers are cool.
posted by Sequence at 6:25 PM on July 13, 2019 [36 favorites]

Oh I totally misunderstood your question, so sorry! It’s not unethical at all!
posted by katypickle at 6:29 PM on July 13, 2019

No, it's not ethical, and it's not what your company's sick leave policy is intended to cover. But, not all decisions in life are made pursuant to what is ethical and what is strictly by the rules. Nobody is going to condemn you, fire you, or probably even care if you take the day off -- but admitting when you're doing something self-serving (even a little bit) is generally a sign of higher character than not.
posted by schwinggg! at 6:41 PM on July 13, 2019

Response by poster: Just to clarify: NotLost is right about what I was trying to ask - apologies for not being clearer!
The chores really are: laundry, meal prep, shopping, cleaning, ironing etc
posted by EatMyHat at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2019

When I was a manager, I had a staff member email me and HR at the same time to ask this exact question, and HR answered before I could, saying that yes, according to our organization's policies etc., this was permissible.

It's also probably accurate that you'll still be a little under the weather, that you'll still be recovering.
posted by slidell at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's unethical at all, but I agree with Sequence's comment about not being too specific about it to co-workers.

In your shoes, I'd just say I'm "taking a day of sick leave," and not go into any more detail about the specifics of the illness, including the exact timing.
posted by rpfields at 7:01 PM on July 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

When I use my sick days as mental health days I frame them in my own mind (ie, not to HR) as "Sick and Tired" days.

And I firmly believe that taking care of my personal business makes me a better employee, rather than a stressed, anxious, short-tempered employee, so I wholly believe that using a sick day as a catch up day is ethical as well as beneficial to the company in the long run.

Working to the detriment of our personal life leads to burnout, which is bad for our employers in myriad ways as much as it is bad for our own physical and mental wellbeing.
posted by vignettist at 7:08 PM on July 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

If I am well enough to go back to work, is it ethical of me to take the day off to do the chores?

In my opinion - it is ethical regardless of whether your company officially permits it, because it is a basic human need once in a while.

And it’s very common to do this—you are far from alone.
posted by sallybrown at 7:18 PM on July 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Your question reminds me of people I’ve known who will give four weeks or a month of notice before leaving their jobs, because they feel bad about giving “only” two weeks notice, even though when those same companies fire employees it is with no notice at all.

Before you ask if it’s ethical to take a day off work—probably one of the very limited number of paid sick days your employer allows—ask yourself if your employer is truly treating you ethically in the first place. Taking a single day off probably doesn’t even begin to address the power imbalance in your relationship.
posted by ejs at 7:20 PM on July 13, 2019 [16 favorites]

I've been a manager of people for most of my career. Take the day. "I got sick this weekend and I'm almost done recovering so I'm taking a sick day; I'll be in on Tuesday."

You need the time because of sickness. Your paystub says that you've earned some sick days. This is what they are for. It's completely ethical, completely reasonable, and you shouldn't feel remotely bad about taking one when you need it.

As a manager, I'd rather have you at work for four days where you're healthy and not frazzled than five days where you're half-assed, half-sick and half-hungry because you didn't have the time to pack and eat a decent lunch and aren't sure whether you'll have a shirt to wear tomorrow.
posted by toxic at 7:40 PM on July 13, 2019 [20 favorites]

Take the day. Take two, if you need them. That's what they're for.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:44 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

This falls firmly under "still recovering from a cold".

Even if your body is back 100% (lucky you; my colds linger for at least two weeks), you're recovering from the chore-time deficiency.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:13 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Depends on where you live. Here in the UK sick leave is (often) paid leave and treated separately from annual leave. When you are sick you make a declaration that you were too sick to work on that day and if it is discovered that that is not true then it is counted as fraud, which is one of the few grounds for immediate dismissal.

Ethics is a slightly different question. If it won't make your colleagues' weeks horrible then it probably isn't too bad. I wouldn't do it though.

I see I'm in a minority, which is probably an interesting feature of how law and culture influence ethical decision making!
posted by kadia_a at 11:22 PM on July 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Looking at the list of chores, nothing horrible would happen if these jobs don’t (all) get done every weekend. Chances are you’d find ways to clothe and feed yourself and whatever dirt does not get cleaned this weekend would still be there next weekend. You’d just not feel as if you’re ready for the coming week, you may have to go shopping after work etc. So if you can take Monday off and the idea of ‘muddling through’ the week upsets you, take it. If you can’t take Monday off, lower your expectations about how prepared you’ll be for the coming week. Perhaps figure out if anything absolutely has to happen today e.g. because you literally will run out of clean clothes tomorrow, and do that
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:26 AM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Just so that kadia_a doesn’t shoulder all the weight of this point of view themselves... it would seem weird to me to take a sick day when I wasn’t sick. If the chores were things that simply could not possibly be done before or after work, or wait until the next weekend - like refilling depleted prescriptions, or organising suddenly-needed repairs, or taking someone to the hospital - then maybe. But, for me, needing to iron clothes or do some cleaning isn’t a reason to take a sick day.

It sucks to be ill on the weekend, but that’s the luck of the draw. There’s a two-in-seven chance that this is when illness strikes and it’s not your employer’s problem if it does. But, as with kadia_a, I’m in the UK, so maybe that accounts for the different perspective.
posted by fabius at 8:58 AM on July 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Your responsibility is to use your sick time to prepare for your return to work - so your recovery isn't complete until logistical issues are resolved and you are ready to perform your duties.
posted by mikek at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Your responsibility is to use your sick time to prepare for your return to work - so your recovery isn't complete until logistical issues are resolved and you are ready to perform your duties.
posted by mikek at 2:15 PM on July 14 [+] [!]

I mean, I literally would never have returned from maternity leave if that were the standard for taking sick days. No working parent would ever go to work. I'm not saying this as a way to discourage taking the day off -- just to point out that it's not really ethical (or UNethical), and it's not following the rules. And if you do it often, your boss might suspect you of abusing sick leave. But at the same time -- take the day if you want to. This doesn't really fall in the realm of breaking huge rules either (although if your boss sees you at the store you could get in trouble). Everyone takes an extra slice of cake every now and then; you have no responsibility to be more scrupulous than everyone else. Just understand what you're doing.
posted by schwinggg! at 4:32 PM on July 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Came here to say essentially what ejs said. This is a decision which, in a just world, would as kadia_a suggested probably have no true ethical dimension. But that's not the world we're in.

I'm assuming from your question that you're in the US, is that correct? If so, the mere fact that you're having to choose between recovering from illness and performing the basic tasks of daily life necessary to sustain you, not to mention your obviously strong feeling of guilt about trying to look after yourself, is a direct outcome and an infuriating example of the incredibly crap deal employees get in the States. This is a company that wouldn't think twice before booting you to the curb if they believed it would help their bottom line. Whatever you're earning, it's the bare minimum they can get away with. You don't owe these people squat in a moral sense.

Unless it's going to majorly complicate your own work tasks or there's a risk of your boss catching you vacuuming your floor, please take the day.

(Or if all that is a little too bolshy for you, look at it this way: you DO owe your company your best work/output. Which you're not going to be in a position to provide if you're dirty, frazzled, and tired. Whether or not HR would agree, YOU know that this sick day is important to your performance. So take it.)
posted by peakes at 3:57 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My employer offers unlimited sick leave, but I don't use it unless I'm actually sick. I've never heard of the idea of taking a sick day to make up for being sick on the weekend (or during vacation, for that matter). Like fabius, this just seems like bad luck and not your employer's problem.

If I'm sick on the weekend, I'll squeeze in chores before/after work if urgent, or delay them if not urgent. If I desperately needed a day to take care of personal things, I could book a day of vacation.

(For context: I'm in Canada and work in a unionized job.)
posted by Frenchy67 at 5:29 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah I should clarify that my previous response comes from the assumption that if OP had PTO they would use it, and awareness that a non zero number of workers’ only paid leave *comes* in the form of sick days—otherwise you’re restricted to your previously-agreed days off and that’s it (this was the case at one of my first hourly jobs for example).
posted by peakes at 5:55 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

It seems like the people who are saying it's unethical come from countries where there is lots of paid personal leave. I'm assuming you are in the US, where most people don't get paid sick or personal leave and can be fired at will.

You were sick. You are still potentially contagious to others. You need to get things done. Take a sick day, if you can do it without consequences.

Do not post on social media at all the entire day.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 7:26 AM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify I am in Australia where we get both paid sick leave and holiday time. To let you know what I did - I pushed through to do the chores on Sunday, but then took a sick day on Monday as I wasn’t recovered from the illness. Today (Tuesday) I am back at work and feeling (mostly) better. Still interested to hear what people think as this will likely happen to me again sometime, though hopefully not soon!
posted by EatMyHat at 7:42 PM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know of any policy that would allow you to take a Monday off if you were sick on a Saturday. I also don't think you should worry very much about it and just go ahead and take the day off - either you're white collar and working in a team whose goals are measured in weeks / months in which missing one day of work is immaterial - or if it's really important, then hopefully you and your manager are aligned on why it's so important you can't miss that single day of work - or you're blue collar and your managers deal with far worse cases of absenteeism and rorting of leave than what you've described...

As guidance on this isssue I point to three related policies...

Here is one interpretation of the Fair Work Act section 89(2) says that if you happen to fall sick during a period of annual leave you can convert those days from annual leave into sick days instead. I can confirm seeing this clause explicitly mentioned in some EBA agreements. So it seems you can time shift sick leave / annual leave.

If Christmas falls on a Sunday, no one says tough luck, you don't get a holiday, it gets shifted to Monday instead. So it seems you can time shift holiday leave.

If you're a part time worker and work Mon-Tue-Wed and your colleague works Wed-Thu-Fri and there so happens to be a public holiday on a Friday that week... you end up working 3 days and they will work 2 days but you both get paid the same. So in this case you can't time shift holiday leave, you just suck it up that you got unlucky with the timing of the public holiday and you don't get the same entitlements as someone with a more fortunate timing. This public holiday paid leave policy jives with the interpretation of sick leave that it's a replacement of pay for people who are prevented from working - it assumes your colleague wanted to work Friday but couldn't due to the company holiday shutdown, so they got paid for it even if they didn't work, and you don't get entitled to the same thing because Mon-Tue-Wed you wanted to work, you got to work, and you got paid for it.


I will however vehemently disagree with the idea espoused in the comments that since you've earned those sick days you are entitled to take them regardless if you're sick or not. That's basically fraud. It's like saying, you paid for an insurance policy on your car, so you're entitled to claim the payout whether or not your car was really damaged in an accident or not. The whole point of insurance, or indeed personal leave, is a kind of collective / social risk sharing, where it's understood that some people may fall ill and require lots of sick days, while some are blessed with better health and will not need them all. If everyone took all the days they had there would be no value in this kind of risk sharing and we may as well get rid of the idea of sick days and just give everyone a fixed number of annual leave days instead to do as they wished.
posted by xdvesper at 10:23 PM on July 15, 2019

If Christmas falls on a Sunday, no one says tough luck, you don't get a holiday, it gets shifted to Monday instead.

This is all extremely dependent on local legislation. In a lot of countries that is exactly what happens. A public holiday falls on the weekend it doesn't get tagged on the weekend. In those years you simply have less paid time off. The same for company shut-downs. The workforce is expected to take vacation.

Anyway, you ask how people who live alone manage. Here is what I do. Stuff simply doesn't get done until the next weekend unless it is essential. It's ok if that means it is not as tidy or clean as I'd prefer. Such is life. From your list, the only two essential things I see is making sure you can eat and making sure you have clothes to wear. And that is mainly because I work long hrs, have a variable commute and live in a country where shops close earlyish. I don't necessary have time after work to nip to the shops or do a load of laundry. The workload and business model also mean that work simply doesn't get done if I don't do it. So I rarely take time off due to sickness. If I'm unwell I work from home and only keep essentials going remotely so as not to make anybody else sick.

Anyway, as finding time after work is a challenge I take other measures. For example, I rarely buy clothes that require ironing. And I have enough clothes that I can go without doing laundry for a couple of weeks if required. And I do make sure I have enough store cupboard items, frozen fruit and veg and protein to keep me going for a week if I don't manage to go shopping. As the period from Jan-Mar is exceptionally busy for me at work part of my normal routine during my xmas break is to spend a couple of days cooking a large batch each of curry, chillie, lasagne and freezing this in individual portions. That way I can eat a nice meal even if it's a particularly bad day.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:29 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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