Privilege Blog

Should You Go To Work When You Are Sick?

Two weeks ago, I got sick. Fell sick on Friday, remained sick enough that I couldn’t go to work the Monday after Thanksgiving. However, the rule I live by for working through illness is that once you’ve been sick for three days you’re no longer contagious. As long as it’s just a cold. I don’t really know if this is true, but my son was in a grammar school class with a girl in remission from leukemia, and the parents set out the three-day rule to protect their child from random germs. I’ll abide by it until I hear otherwise.

So, Tuesday, I put on a ribbed pale blue cashmere funnel neck from Wilkes Bashford, a Michael Kors peacoat that I got for $60 at Costco, and a long, ribbed, fuchsia cashmere Loro Piana scarf that cost an inordinate amount of money at Neiman Marcus, 15 years ago.

You know how when you feel sick, the cold of the outdoors makes it way into your bones more easily? Calls for hands in pockets and a hunching of shoulders.

My nose ran. My eyes watered. But, at least, my pants fit. Ever since you all told me I wear my pants too big, I’ve been paying attention. So, these black bootleg J. Crew cords? They fit. Sturdy Gals believe in silver linings.

May you spend your holidays achoo-free. I will be off next week, but back here again come Christmas and New Year’s weeks.

58 Responses

  1. I am sick RIGHT NOW and I am at work. But it’s sinus issues, so I figure that’s not contagious. i also have a tendency to dress myself up a little more when I’m sick. It makes me feel like I’m presentable and my raspy sick voice is just “sexy”.

  2. Vitamin D, my dear. I’m talking 2,500 IUD per day when you’re ill will help you recover much more quickly, and a regular regimen of vit. D will help prevent minor illnesses such as colds.

    And please, PLEASE, stay home when you’re sick. I send my employees home if they show up hacking and sneezing, because the last thing our *very* small company needs is everyone out sick at once.

  3. I hope that by now you are fully recovered. Have I mentioned that I really like those glasses on you? The shape is just right to flatter your cheekbones.

  4. Hello Lisa:
    There is nothing more comforting than to be swaddled in Cashmere when one is not quite feeling oneself. Except, perhaps, to be cuddling a hot water bottle but that might have been a step too far at the office!!!! Hoping you are feeling better now and wishing you Happy Holidays!!!

  5. So happy to see you in those cords. They’re the vintage matchstick style from J.Crew ? If so, get them in denim, you look great!!!! And you look slimmer (not that you needed to, but what the hell?) AND your legs look miles longer. Now you get to advise your sister!
    Love the blue sweater, the peacoat, and of course, the Loro Piano scarf. When we used to visit NYC, it was the first place we both shopped. Now, we don’t even go in as the temptations are way too strong.

  6. Ha ha – I love these pics – I totally dress differently when I feel bad! Hope you’re feeling better! I think I’m getting my annual cold right now too! And yes – those pants look great on you. If you got it – flaunt it! And you’ve definitely got it! :-)

  7. Yes stay home when you are sick!
    We get students coming to school who are feverish and constantly coughing and the germs spread like wildfire. I think common sense rules here.

    Cashmere does go a long way to making one feel better!

  8. Didn’t see the link – they’re the stretch bootcut. I love the way they fit, may give them a go. Again, you look terrific.

  9. I work freelance and that’s something I don’t think I can control. Unless I feel so bad that I can’t think or type. When I used to work in an office I never went to work when I was sick. Never. xoxoxo

  10. If I wasn’t so fond of you I might be a little jealous of your capacity to look outstanding despite the runny nose and chilled bones! Really nice styles Lisa, the cords are outstanding! BTW, I’m a believer in the 3 day rules as well.

    Sending you a smile,

  11. How can you look so cute and put-together when you’re sick?! The best I can usually manage is PJs in the same color family. If that.

  12. For a minute I read “achoo-free” as “alcohol-free” and I was vaguely horrified! :-)

    Feel better soon xo

    PS: Brandy helps.

  13. Please stay home if you are sick. I thought the old wives tale of, you are only contagious if you have a fever was true. According to my doctor, if it is a virus, you are contagious for the entire time you are sick. Plus as my best friend reminded me; “many people (not just the unemployed, but,part timers and interns) have no medical insurance. They get sick and they will suffer through with no medical help
    or the lose of income when they feel so bad they can’t work. It’s about good manners.” That’s according to my best friend, and when Mary talks people listen ;)
    You look very lovely even with the feel bads.
    Get better soon.

  14. The first thing I noticed was how terrific those pants look on you!

    My cardiologist friend says if you treat a cold, you will recover in about 7 days, if you don’t treat it, it will last about a week.

    Feel better, STAT!

  15. “The common cold is “contagious” between 24 hours before onset of symptoms until 5 days after onset. Like everything else, this varies depending on the organism, but that’s a pretty safe estimate. This period of communicability was determined by taking nasal washings of experimentally infected volunteers. There is also the possibility of healthy carriers, though this appears to be rare with rhinoviruses.

    “How can we prevent contracting and transmitting colds? Stay home from work if you’re sick, dammit. I’ll write you a note for your boss.”

    From The Straight Dope dot com – fighting ignorance since 1973 (it’s taking longer than they thought).

    Nice threads!

  16. I’m strongly on the side of “Please, please stay home when you are sick.” I feel that it’s selfish of people to go to work sick. I can’t call in sick when I am well, and I also don’t have any real way to avoid your germs in the office.

    I used to work with one woman who would ALWAYS come to work sick (and she got sick a lot). Then a few days later she’d be feeling better; meanwhile a half dozen of the rest of us would be suffering (some part-timers not getting paid when they had to stay home).

    Just to add insult to injury, she’d proudly show off her “wellness” bonus that she got for not taking her sick days (meanwhile the rest of us of course had to USE ours). Ooh, that stung.

    One more thing is that some people’s health does not allow them to “bounce back” as quickly, so it can be dangerous for them to be exposed to germs (of course no-one can avoid them all, but still).

    Oh, one more mini-rant, if I’m allowed: It drives me nuts when advertisements/general culture make it seem like a virtue, a certain “toughness” to go to work sick. “With the help of X brand cold symptom masker, I can stick it out all day at work.”


    Thanks for letting me rant. And wow, yes, the pants look fabulous.


    1. these could have been my words. Plus the smirking co-worker, when she finds out she passed the cold to all her colleagues at work before she finally stayed home. Having spread the germs all around.

    2. I stopped going to work sick when I worked with a woman who was 70. I came in with a cold that I had for a few days. I felt rotten, but felt I had to go into work. My 70 year old coworker caught my cold and missed a week of work. I felt so guilty for doing that to her.

      People at my current job may think I’m a weenie for missing days for colds, but I don’t want to get anyone else sick if I can help it!

  17. I am pleased that so many of your commenters advise staying home while sick. I wish they were my coworkers. We have moved to a paid time off bank rather than separate sick and vacation banks, so now people come to work sick so that they can use all of the days for vacation. UGH

    I love the fit of the new pants & that cashmere pullover is yummy.

  18. Early Merry Merry Merry and I wish on my bleeaagh “healthy” days I could be half as put together as you are on your actual bleeaagh days ;)

    Same POV, btw, that you have on work and sickness, this is more a testament to being what MoMo labels me- “a teacher’s kid”- staying home sick was something that happened a grand total of five days 1st-12th (excluding chicken pox).



  19. As I sit in an office and can avoid exposing my co-workers to whatever germ pool has taken up residence, I do tend to go to work unless I’m sick enough to stay in bed and sleep. You look great here, even with a cold.

  20. Yes………….absolutely best to stay home, one of my pet peeves when people are actively sick. Hope you are feeling better Lisa and I never said a thing about your pants. Happy, happy holidays and I hope I don’t get sick, heading out for a vacation and most of it is outdoors on a horse of all things! XO

  21. IMO your rule is solid, given that there is also a two-day or so incubation time (before you come down with symptoms) when people are very contagious. The pale blue and fuchsia a striking combination-and hope you you feel better. Tomorrow is Friday so I advise a hot rum toddy at bedtime.

  22. Lisa,

    Have you ever considered wearing a hat? I’m the only one I know who wears a hat every day during winter here in the mid-Alantic, but ever since I started wearing one, I have not been sick one day.
    I suppose it can interfere with some hairstyles but I refuse to compromise health for vanity.


  23. I am not a doctor, still – why would germs be any less contagious on the forth or fifth day?

    I guess it’s not about the germs but thoughts: one feels uncomfortable, being not in charge for more than 3 days. Letting the others down, giving the impression one is weak ….
    Maybe that’s where the 3-days origins from? Like anyone who stays home more than 3 days is a sissy?
    The talk behind one’s back while one is away on a sick leave, that makes us return early?

    If I were your co-worker, I would rather know you at home, with a cup of tea and rest.

    Get well soon!

  24. Definitely, if you have a fever,you have to wait 24 hours after your temperature returns to normal to return to school or work.

  25. Dear Lisa, I hope that you are feeling better. I think the issue we battle with is one of being considerate of our colleagues but at the same time not being self-indulgent – yes I am not feeling a hundred percent but I not going to malinger. The problem is when something like a real case of influenza rather than a bad cold knocks us for six and we cannot physically get up for days. In such a case, maybe a hot toddy before bed? love Lindaxxx

  26. Lisa…I love your just getting over being sick outfit! It looks nice and cozy, as well as cute and comfortable….what more could you want?!
    Glad you’re on the mend…or even more hopefully… completely mended.
    xo J~

  27. You look fabulous in your clean-fitting pants and beautiful colours of cashmere. Paul has just got over a prolonged and miserable cold, but so far, I’ve managed to evade it. Glad you’re back to strength.

  28. I think people who are sick should stay at home—period. I don’t live in the working world, but my husband does–and he brings home terrible germs from those who come to work sick.

  29. That scarf is beautiful, and really suits you – it draws attention to the lurking mirth in your eyes. My illness policy is to work from home, but there’s something in me that won’t let me not work at all.

  30. In my career as a university instructor, I battled with my students who were clearly too sick to be in class, but had no one to act in loco parentis and tell them to stay in bed. It is not a moral failing to stay home sick!

    This year I’ve been fit as a fiddle, despite having moved to a new country and a new climate — the big doses of Vitamin D3 seem to help, as does the very regular hand-washing I indulge in.

    Those trousers look great on you! Lean and lanky.

  31. I checked both photos carefully, upanddown/sidetoside, I hate to be a grouch but your repeated comments about looking like a bowling pin in the straighter-leg pants styles are hereby proven invalid, false, wrong, deluded.


    Have a fabulous trip!

  32. You have received good advice for taking care of yourself. Washing your hands often is important. Greeting by shaking hands, hugging, and French kisses are a no-no during flu time.
    But actually I want to express my delight on your jeans. Now these are so much better than the ” swingy jeans “! You are so thin, please take advantage of it and wear jeans like these : )!

  33. Lisa,I totally agree on the pants with Kathy/Metscan big improvement on the bootcut.

    Trust you are feeling a tad better and have a pleasant weekend. Ida

  34. Did you buy them in any of the other colors? I now have the black ones, that you’re wearing, but am debating on a few of the other colors as they are dirt cheap right now with the extra 30% off.

  35. first of all lisa, can you imagine getting a facial from someone who even looks slightly ill? so no, i cannot go to work sick. not even close. thankfully, i rarely am sick.

    secondly, i look nowhere near as chic as you do when i am sick. i am a mess and all i want to do is crawl under the covers until i am well. and that is what i wind up doing.

    love the new pants!

  36. You new employer is very generous if you’ve got leave to take 3 sicks days off so soon after starting work.

    One less than thrilling aspect of mid-life is that sometimes sick stuff happens. In the past 10 years I’ve been off three weeks with a surgery I could not avoid, and 6 weeks with a spouses bone-marrow transplant, another unavoidable event. If I take off every day I have a sniffle then when the big stuff happens I’m out of leave and wondering what I’ll use to pay the bills right when I’m also stressed over health.

    I can put up with sniffy co-workers because I know they’re in the same leave situation that I am.

  37. Whilst listening to NPR the other day, I learned three things;
    1. Drinking cocoa improves circulation
    2. Eating curry (turmeric) proves to stave off alzhiemers.
    3. Taking 3 30 minute naps a week adds years

    But I always knew that staying home sick was just proper….and a privilege for so many. I fear with the current economy many go to work sick. My husband tells me he has no time to be sick, nor any sick days.

    Alas, drink lots of tea to warm the bones and perhaps we all need tighter pants to feel our fittest!

  38. I hope you are on the mend and are feeling much better. You do manage to look very well put together while not 100% well. :)

    When I was still working, I would not go in, but might still work from home, especially if there were urgent projects.

  39. Argh. What we are all battling is the spirit of our Puritan ancestors who taught us never to complain and to carry on in the face of great hardship. Right before they nearly eliminated the native Americans from the planet with their European diseases. Stay home. It is less a matter of the Three Day Rule than it is a matter of if you can honestly exist in your workplace without needing to touch things, shake hands, prepare food. If you can manage that risk, hole yourself up in an office, then yes, maybe. There is nothing more aggravating than being in a meeting with someone who is full of the cold the day before your holiday is set to begin.

  40. The three day rule sounds like a good one. More importantly though, your new pants fit perfectly and the fuchsia scarf is gorgeous. I also love the tortoiseshell glasses. Very smart look.

    I am glad you’re feeling better, and Merry Christmas if you don’t post again before Christmas.

  41. Was thinking to myself that you’d lost weight and then read about your buying pants that fit. Never thought you were “big” before but definitely a noticeable improvement!

  42. Hope you are better now! Reading all that comments I am grateful for our health insurance system in Germany that generally permits you to stay at home when sick, get your money paid and keep your vacation days – that does not mix. But inspite of this, people go to work sick over here, too. Why that – they feel responsable for their projects and they often don´t mind the costs of illness they cause their employers or the insurance companies passing their germs to others. I go back to work when my doctor says that it is okay, not before.
    Nice outfit, like the pants!
    Saludos Chrissa

  43. I’m retired now but when I was in the work force I rarely
    took a day off sick. I usually just worked through it.

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  44. You look fabulous in your pants that fit. I seem to have a natural tendency to buy pants too big but blogging has helped that and it is good to see you in well-fitting pants. When to go to work seems to depend on many factors considering one’s work situation but it is kind to consider contagion. Of course we all forget we were probably most contagious before we even knew we were sick.

  45. You look so cute Lisa! So skinny and adorable! I have missed you-hoping all is well with you and that you’re enjoying your new job.

    p.s. I just got a pair of my first J Crew cords in white in the mail yesterday–they are about 4″ too short…but I’m wearing them (rolled up) anyway!

    Merry Merry!

    xo Mary Jo

  46. I hope you are feeling better! Those pants look great on you–I usually don’t post or read comments, but sounds like commenters give good advice! I was at J Crew yesterday and the cords in my size and black that were sold out online were there and on sale! I hope to make them part of my work wardrobe this winter

Comments are closed.