Now I’m not saying I have whooping cough. It is a pretty terrible illness and should be taken seriously. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.
For the past two weeks, more if I’m being honest, I’ve basically been coughing so violently and to the point of being unable to catch my breath.
It has gotten so bad that my coworkers have established a quarantine around me. One of them actually took a bottle of Lysol and sprayed me with it. Some of it got in my mouth and I can tell you it does not, in fact, taste like morning spring.
Yet I went to work.
The blood vessels in my eye burst into a muted red blossom from my coughing. My ribs strained and my throat turned raw. I temporarily lost the ability to speak in a human sounding voice, managing only to hurl low growls. I actually turned down chocolate cake because the thought made me nauseous.
Yet I still went to work.
I didn’t go to work because of some Herculean inner strength or some martyr desire to be seen as the ultimate worker. No, it was much more insidious than that. I felt guilty.
The thought of leaving my coworkers in the lurch actually filled me with an anxiety that burned me up inside, much like the fever I was experiencing. So against all rational, I dragged my aching carcass out of bed, strapped on my shoes and stuck as many throat lozenges in my pocket as I could. I’d need them later. I felt like I had to go to work even while sick.
I’m also not the only one.
According to statistics, about 93 per cent of people still show up to the office when they are sick. Now this number does take in account people with minor ailments such as itchy feet, a very painful blister or a monster hangover.
The point is that number is staggering, but worst yet, it isn’t surprising.
Canadians pride themselves on their work ethic, particularly in Renfrew County. We are the strongest, most resilient of all workers. It takes a lot to keep one down from doing a good hard days work of labour.
I once knew a man who prided himself on his busted knees. A prize for years spent working in construction without proper safety gear. He could barely hobble without grimacing in pain, but gosh darn it, at least he worked hard for those scars. He only missed a day here or there for the birth of his children. He allegedly worked through mono.
Don’t get me wrong, hard work is a good thing and should be celebrated.
But this cult of working ourselves to the bone is a sickness. It is taking this whole working ethics to a dark side where we can’t take a day off to heal, mend or just rest. It is a badge of honour to sleep as little as possible and to take as little time as possible for ourselves. We place ourselves on the alter of job martyrdom because it is what is expected of us.
This is something that is exploited by corporations and businesses.
In Ontario, the legal maximum of protected unpaid sick leave is 10 days a year. This covers illnesses, accidents, family emergencies or other urgent matter. Take anymore and you could face repercussions.
Trust me when I tell you that your boss will remind you.
It was, and still is, baffling to me when I was told that there was no such things as paid sick leave in my job. In fact, there is no paid sick leave in many jobs.
You want to prevent infecting your coworkers and customers by staying home? Too bad, so sad. You don’t come in and you don’t get paid.
Maybe it is my pro-union roots showing, but in what world is that fair? You shouldn’t have to fear for your livelihood because you were unlucky enough to fall prey to an accident or germ.
Going to work while sick shouldn’t be a test of resilience, nor should it be something praiseworthy.
I’ll admit that despite going to work, I didn’t actually do anything. I sat before the screen, trying to remember a time where it didn’t feel like I was dying and waited for the days to end. All the while infecting my coworkers.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole office starts echoing with coughs next week. The statistics do say that 81 per cent of people have admitted catching something from a coworker. Those odds are probably even higher after I accidentally released a load of airborne phlegm at a coworker who was standing right behind me.
So if nothing productive is going on, what is the point of physically being at the office? It’s ridiculous.
Personally I’ve come to a decision. I refuse to feel guilty about being sick. I’m, hopefully, at the tail end of my illness, but I think next time I catch something, I’ll just stay at home for a while. It’s not like I’ll be working, even while I’m at work.