Sick At Work? Tips To Get You Through The Day

What do you do when you’re sick at work?  Let’s be honest, there are times when you just can’t go home, no matter how loudly your bed is calling you.

Sick at work? Tips to help. Woman blowing her nose.

You might have a presentation to put together or an important client meeting to attend. There may simply be nobody else who can cover your shift, or you work for yourself and have absolutely nobody to delegate to!

What should you do when you are sick at work?

If you are employed then your first port of call should be your manager or HR Department (if you have one) to explain that you aren’t well, but be prepared for them to advise that you should seek medical advice.

If you are off for less than 7 days you will be required to fill in a form stating that you have been ill (self certification) and if you are subsequently off work for longer than 7 days you have to produce a sick note (‘fit note’) from your doctor.

If what you have is infectious then it will be in your employer’s best interests to send you home – for example vomiting and diarrhea – and, if you are really bad then HR may be able to find temporary cover.

If, though, the buck for a particular work project rests with you, that may not be an option. You may simply have to deal with your symptoms and carry on.

Self care strategies when you’re sick at work

If you are just feeling generally under the weather then here are some tried and tested ideas from my fellow parenting bloggers who are all used to having to ‘get on with it’ both at home and and work!

Note:  lots of us use painkillers but make sure you take them responsibly and in consultation with your doctor if need be!

Lianne at Anklebiters Adventures advises taking painkillers every 2 hours, making sure you alternate between two different types (e.g. paracetemol and ibuprofen), drink lots of water and stock up on fresh fruit.

Mel at Le Coin De Mel recommends taking a painkiller and making yourself a strong cup of coffee.  She suggests wearing an outfit that makes you feel good, putting your best makeup on and going home as early as possible to recover.

Kelly at The Best Version of Kelly takes a similar approach – “make up, caffeine, alternate paracetamol and ibuprofen, Sudafed nasal spray for a blocked nose, cough sweets to hand in case of a coughing fit and I keep picturing my bed and telling myself I will be there soon.”

Helen at Welsh Mum Writing sensibly advises setting a timer on your phone so you don’t skip or forget meds, taking a refillable water bottle and making sure that keep drinking. Have a coffee when you’re beginning to flag, she suggests, and put off anything that needs your 100% that doesn’t have to be done that day.

Pete at Household Money Saving says “energy drinks always help. Plus, I make sure I take short breaks every 30 minutes or so. It’s not ideal, but means I make it through without collapsing.”

Amy at All About Mummy  suggests switching your mind-frame to coping with just what is in front of you at the time. “If you try and think about the whole day it feels mammoth but if you just think about the challenges of the next hour it feels just about manageable”, she says.

Folakemi at Peacocks Can Fly takes a more spiritual approach.  She says “I’m a Christian so I pray to God to give me strength to get through the day and it usually works for me. Last time I was ill, my key client meetings got rescheduled.”

Janet at Falcondale Life takes a practical approach. “Plead for help online. I used to not do this but then one time I was really laid out with flu and it was so hard. I learned afterwards how much my friends would have helped me if they had known how bad it was. People do love to be helpful. I have been ill recently and been open about it. I have been bombarded with offers of help. Of people can do my errands, I can manage a bit more work.”

And for sufferers of chronic illnesses, there is often no other choice but to accept your symptoms and carry on working.

Angela at The Inspiration Edit says “I have chronic illness and need to work despite feeling unwell 90% of the time. My main way of coping is by writing a list each day and when it get’s really hard and tough, I simply pace myself and slowly work through my list knowing that I can have a good rest at the end of it. It’s also great to take breaks if you can. When working in an office environment I would lay down on the sofa in the break room and just give my body a 5 minute break. That really helped.”

Did your job cause your illness?

Of course there may be occasions when your illness has actually been caused by your job in the first place.  Common examples of work-related illnesses can be anything from repetitive strain injury, to noise-induced hearing loss.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that you are not injured in the course of carrying out your employment and any good employer will have stringent health & safety policies to comply with government legislation.

If you think you are suffering from a work-related illness then you will need to raise the matter with your HR Department or Manager but you may have to seek independent legal advice to protect your employment rights and benefits.

How do you cope at work when you are feeling poorly?


  1. R Moon
    2 October, 2019 / 11:44 am

    I have had to spend the past 5 days in bed off work because someone at work didn’t take precautions. I’m “sick” quite literally of people boasting of their perfect record because they come in sick – mine isn’t because of them. Not one of these “tips” point out that you could spread the illness to someone else, someone who has immune deficiency disease, under going chemo, has a family member they care for with serious illness. Working through it maybe what they see as their only option but it is not heroic to do it, doing it could have serious serious ramifications on other people. How about reminding people to catch it, bin it, kill it. Wear a mask, use tissues, disinfect your area, carry antibacterial hand gel. I’m sorry but I find this irresponsible.

    • linda
      2 October, 2019 / 5:02 pm

      Those are incredibly valid points and yes, in an ideal world, nobody would feel pressurised into going into work. In some jobs, though you risk losing your job for non-attendance. You have to take a call balancing your health against your employment. Had I had an important presentation to give in my last job, I would have had to have been at death’s door for illness to be any sort of excuse. There are also plenty of tales of those who have been ‘managed out’ for non-attendance due to health conditions.

  2. 10 May, 2019 / 2:24 pm

    This is so vital you’ve shown other peoples methods of coping. Some people in office can stick to one mindset such as taking a few paracetamols and ibuprofen hoping it can go away. It can also be hard due to some working peer pressure and demands of the workplace.

    My coping strategies vary depending on what illness I experience. I’ve worked for 5 years in the medical profession doing admin in the NHS. It’s been hard as times I’ve felt really poorly other individuals ill at work see you as nuisance if you take sick leave and they don’t. As some co-workers have thought they were more entitled due to having a more serious illness. When reality illness can effect people in different ways.

    My method for coping, is to listen to your body. If you need to take rest and take leave, do so as you come first. Don’t be persuaded by others. You only get one life

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