You’re Sick. Please Stay Home.
You’re Sick. Please Stay Home.
You have a cold (or flu, or Ebola, or insert any communicable disease here) but you don’t stay home because you don’t think you’re really sick, or you don’t want to stay home because you’ve convinced yourself that work can’t live without you. Guess what? Work can live without you. We all can. You’re not that important. If you think no one will notice, you’re wrong. Stay home, please.
When you’re coughing, sniffling, or blowing your nose, there’s no compassion from the uninfected. People eye you to see where you sit so they can sit far away from you; they watch to see what you touch so they can avoid the same contact; they ask for phone meetings rather than in-person meetings. The conscientious person will stay a safe distance from the others, apologizing (to no one in particular) for the cold, flu, or other nasty infection, promising to stay clear. The clueless person, or the one who doesn’t care about anyone else, is the one I end up next to on the airplane.
This is the person who sneezes in his hands while introductions are made and then gladly extends his infected hand to shake yours (this happened to me at a conference). This is the person who sniffles nonstop during a four-hour flight without once blowing her nose; or, even worse, she blows her nose throughout the four-hour flight using the same saturated tissue over and over again until the thin, shredded fibers morph into a tight ball the shape and size of her sweaty, infected palm. This is the person who shows up at your house coughing and wheezing and asks if you need help in the kitchen. I don’t need any help in the kitchen. Thank you for asking. Can you please go home now? You’re sick.
While none of us know when we’ll get sick, or how long it will last, we’re always worse than we think. No matter how hard we try to mask the cough or sniffle, or contain the germs from going airborne, it’s never enough.
I was guilty of this not long ago while recovering from a really bad cough. I was scheduled to attend my company’s Board meeting and convinced myself that I was no longer contagious since I was seven days into a ten-day prescription of antibiotics. I was feeling much better and since I was responsible for taking the Board minutes I didn’t want to pass my responsibilities to someone else. The meeting was a disaster. I could not control my cough (which seemed to worsen by the minute); the Board members, my colleagues, and even the receptionist eying me through the glass conference room door, were giving me disproving looks after every bout of hacking. My attempts to suppress the cough only made matters worse. My CFO was slowly inching away from me, crowding the others who were happy to have a buffer between them and me (she eventually got sick and of course blamed me – rightly so). I should have stayed home. The meeting would have been fine (arguably better) without me. We all use poor judgment at times but we should learn from our mistakes and not expose others to our illnesses.
While it’s unfortunate to get stuck next to someone who is sick an apologetic nod is always appreciated. “I know – I’m sick – – I was at a Board meeting and some woman was coughing uncontrollably. Now I’m sick”. For those you who think you aren’t spreading your germs, you are. Please stop.