The rate of employees taking sick leave is declining, which is not at all surprising. According to the Office for National Statistics, the average number of sick days taken by UK workers fell to 4.1 days in 2017, an sharp decline from the 7.2 days recorded in 1993 when the data was first recorded.
The only two corporate companies I’ve worked for were either a) stingy financially with sick leave or b) insisted that you explain every cough and splatter of your illness to prove your few days of suffering weren’t spent skipping gloriously through a wheat field.*
For example, before I went freelance I worked for an absolute floppy disc of a finance comparison company who charged me for every single day I took sick leave. In my probation period I contracted a cough and stomach bug, which amounted to a bitter-tasting £150 worth of salary.
The culture created is partly the result of larger scale financial struggles for businesses, and the social praise for martyrdom that is pushed down on employees by senior management. I could write a whole article on illness martyrs , which is an insecurity on my part. I’ve never understood those who reel off anecdotes about their enduring clean bill of health since high school; I react to an office bug like I’ve been slapped with a rag of weaponised smallpox.
As a backlash against those who spread their sanctimonious germs and in response to corporations treating their employees like undeserving peasants, here are a few handy tips to quietly revolt with your sinuses and bowels.
Create samples of luminescent bacteria: If your boss is reluctant to accept that you are ill, then start by swabbing your cheeks and rolling the buds in little petri dishes of agar jelly. Little freckles of colourful illness will start appearing within a few days – leave in the staff kitchen. Is that C Diff or tonsillitis? Who knows? Show and compare samples.
Lock yourself in the toilet: toddlers at parties do it, groups of women at clubs do it – you can do it. If the hot lava tumbling from your arse isn’t enough for them to let you go home, then disrupt all those tasks you’ve been set. When your boss sends you a passive aggressive email asking where you’ve been, explain that you have prolapsed.
Leave small bundles of hardened tissues: This is a project you are compiling. Roll your eyes condescendingly if they look confused.
Do a Vix bowl in the breakout area: Polluting the air with the cool sent of koala habitat will be enough to get sent home. This will happen only after you reveal your sweaty face to your boss from the steamy bowl and reveal that you are also eating a sandwich.
Visually confront the person who dragged in the illness: If your line manager has been sniffling and coughing come into work wearing a lavender-stuffed plague beak. Paint a red ‘X’ on their computer and then exorcise them – vigorously.
*Unless you are Theresa May. In which case, as you were.
* It wasn’t a surprise considering the Financial/Managing Director, a living embodiment of a soulless Dilbert cartoon, had no personal decoration in his office bar an open briefcase containing branded stationary – sentimentality wasn’t his forte. They also had a wall full of 90s television screens with Ceefax burned into the screens.