What happened to the good old fashioned sick day?

In the entire history of the world, there has never been a better era than right now to take a sick day. And yet here we are totally wasting it. The situation has become so bad that I've started to see articles titled, "Are sick days a thing of the past?"

A thing of the past? The sick day is now being treated like a fanny pack or the Harlem Shake. And, if this is true, if sick days are going extinct, then boy have we missed out on what could have been the golden era.

First off, let's take a look back at the past to see just how mediocre a sick day used to be.

A sick day in the 90's involved waking up at 6:30 a.m. unsure if you'd even qualify for a school absence. Mom or dad came in. Time to wake up. Depending on where the parent fell on the "Pushover to Hardass" spectrum, you now had to pass one of three tests. Either the easy sympathetic, "Oh honey, just stay in bed. Get some rest." The medium level: back of the hand to the forehead test. Or the hardest level: The dreaded thermometer. Unless this thing says 103 degrees, you're going to school. I'll get your backpack ready. 

If you passed, great, enjoy a couple more hours of sleep. If not, go get dressed and eat a Pop Tart in the kitchen.

For those who qualified for the sick day, around 8/8:30 it was time to head to the couch for two hours of Sportscenter or maybe some Nickelodeon. By 10 a.m. the options were thinning out to Judge Judy and Maury. The highlight of the day was 11/11:30 when you got the Price is Right. My guess is 85 percent of the Price is Right TV audience is right in the middle of a sick day. After that hour of joy, TV was a total wasteland. From 1 to 5 o'clock there was nothing but soap operas, home gym infomercials, and the guy with the Civil War mustache talking about diabetes.

For lunch there was a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle soup. The bread was white bread. The cheese was a Kraft single. The chicken in the chicken noodle soup was arguably a cube of ham. On paper, that should have been a terrible lunch. But somehow, right behind The Price is Right, this was the highlight of the day.

Compare all of this to what we could have right now as adults in 2019.

Wake up at 7:30 a.m.? Not at all. If you're coughing and sneezing in the office on a Wednesday, just grind it out to 2 o'clock and go home.

The dreaded thermometer test? So much easier. All that involves in the office is the resident germophobe coming by and asking, from a distance, "Are you sick?" The mistake most people make here is replying, "Oh no, it's just allergies" and then sneeze all over their keyboard. The follow-up question: "What are you allergic to, snow?" is met with a laugh. The sick person then heads to the bathroom to look at other jobs while the germophobe quickly disinfects the desk with a Lysol wipe.

The mistake most people make is thinking the midday exit is a sign of weakness. The second you tell your boss, "Hey, I think I'm gonna head home" you've officially ended any possible path to the c-suite. You think Steve Jobs ever took a sick day? The other mistake is thinking the opposite, that people will remember this honorable act. I attribute all of Q4's success to Sarah who quarantined herself for that day in November. Without that show of teamwork, who knows what would have happened. 

The truth is, nobody's thinking about it. At most the person next to you is thinking, "Thank God, those sniffle/snort sinus clear outs were driving me crazy."

This fear of what other people are thinking carries over into the sick day itself. "Yeah, I'm heading home, but I'll be online tonight and tomorrow." That line between a Work From Home and a Sick Day is almost non-existent. Actually, there's probably more Netflix being watched during a Work From Home because a Sick Day is being powered by guilt.


Why would we waste the opportunity to lie on a couch for an entire weekday and watch Netflix? Or Hulu. Or Amazon Prime. Or the 100 other options. Judge Judy and Maury? We have 1,000 other choices. Commercials? We don't even have to deal with those. The Price is Right? Well, probably still tune in for that. Or, better yet, we could search, "Best Price is Right episode ever" and get some vintage Bob Barker.

Or video games. Or virtual reality headsets. Growing up it was always frowned upon to play the Playstation while nursing a cold. Didn't really give off an "I'm sick vibe." As an adult? Do whatever you want.

We don't even have to get up for lunch. The white bread grilled cheese sandwich? We can order delivery and have an amazing gourmet sandwich with Ciabatta bread and five luxury cheeses and real chicken noodle soup at our door in 30 minutes. Then go right back to lying down on the couch.

Yes, email is right there. Yes, Slack is on your phone. Yes, it's so easy to catch up on things real quick. All of that is true. But why? Companies usually allow 5-8 sick days a year and living in the Midwest all but guarantees a sinus cold in the winter and some sort of stomach bug in the spring. The sick day is our chance to rest, feel better, and devour entire seasons of a show. It should look more like a vacation day than a Work From Home.

If my 1990's self could see all of the entertainment options available now, and he's sitting there 20 minutes into a Total Gym infomercial with a bowl of ham cube chicken noodle soup next to him, and if he found out that I was choosing to keep on working instead of just being a blob on the couch, it would make him sick to his stomach.

And you know what, he would totally take a sick day.

I'm aiming to have a Medium Rare post up every Monday until March. If you'd like to subscribe to the blog, feel free to enter your email address in this box below. Thank you for stopping by and hopefully see you here next week!

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