A year ago this October, food service industry leaders gathered in Washington, DC to discuss a recent study conducted by the national organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United that supports national restaurant workers. The study found that two-thirds of of all restaurant workers go to work when sick.
A month earlier, USA Today reported out on a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medicine Association citing that approximately 58% of the respondents “said they’d worked at least once while sick and 31% said they’d worked more than once while sick in the previous year.”
One year later, as I find myself “home” sick with a fever, it becomes clear to me that as a graphic designer, I too do not take sick days. In the last year, I took a total of 5 sick days with the intent to rest and recuperate yet found myself working from home instead. Last Monday was a perfect example. At 4:30 in the morning I called my supervisor to let him know that I had slept 6 hours in the last 2 days, was in my 36 hour with a fever and needed to stay home. By 8:45 he had already emailed me asking for me to get him a file and by 9:30 when I hadn’t responded, he called my house. I received emails requiring immediate attention from a total of 6 colleagues, all who knew I was out sick.
I know that I am not the only designer—in-house or freelance—that catches themselves in similar situations; I would rather go to work sick than miss a deadline. I tell my employees that as designers and production artists, it is the nature of our jobs to be at the bottom of the hill. And we are good at it. We pick up the slack, push projects through, and make deadline miracles every day. We take pride in meeting deadlines and get nauseous at the thought of letting a client down. But in the grand scheme of things, the world will not come to an end if we are sick and have to miss a day of work.
I admit, all of that is easier said than done. I am not a surgeon; no one’s life is depending on whether or not I go in to work. I am not a diplomat; peace negotiations will not disintegrate if I do not show up in the office. Yet I find myself making last minute text changes, FTP-ing files to the printer, and answering countless emails with project updates when I should be resting with a box of tissues and cup of tea.
Graphic designers don’t take sick days.
America’s ‘Go to Work Sick’ Culture Is Out of Balance. How sick is too sick to go to work? Advice on when you should just stay home. Working While Sick is Common.