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If You Can’t Work, It’s Okay to Go Home. If You’re Sick, Go Get Help.

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It’s all too easy to call out a crisis impacting the world today. At work, there’s one called presenteeism. It’s when people come into the office (or head into to work) when they aren’t feeling well.

In the spirit of big ideas, I’m writing out more detail about our ten point list of key concepts for a great workplace. This entry is #4:

If you can’t work, it’s okay to go home. If you’re sick, go get help.


© Flickr user Claus Rebler.

I’m not a huge fan of comparing dating to job interviews or having a job to being in a marriage, in truth there are some similarities. One of the key elements of any connection between people is the nature of relationships. A healthy relationship is not 75/25. It’s not 60/40. Instead, a good relationship is 100/100.

Giving 100% (Of What You Agreed To Give)

A 100/100 relationship is one where both parties are completely committed to doing everything they promised to do at the highest level possible. At work, that means doing your job professionally and responsibly. It doesn’t mean putting in long hours, or giving up your weekends, or cutting corners. It means keeping your word, and holding your boundaries.

But a 100/100 relationship goes both ways. It means your employer isn’t going to ask you to do things that are unreasonable either. They should ensure you have the resources to complete the tasks at hand, and not be asking you to bend your principles or skip out on your personal life.

In short, you are committed: up to what you originally agreed.

Above and Beyond, Or Below and Behind?

Many of us are tempted to become heroes at work. But that’s going past the original 100% you agreed to do. Staying up late on a project, putting in your own personal money, or covering for someone else are all examples of this. It’s a bad move, because you’re setting expectations without renegotiating. Don’t do it.

Likewise, life happens. If you get sick, have family stressors, problems at home, or you’re simply burnt out, you shouldn’t try to keep working. Take some time off. If you have vacation, take advantage of it. If you have savings, consider unpaid time off. We sometimes feel like we’re supposed to work even though we aren’t feeling 100%, but that’s not the 100/100 commitment. Don’t do it.

Elsewhere in the World

Ours isn’t the only country with a presenteeism problem. In Japan, there’s a word for death from overwork: karōshi. But at the same time there’s another word in Japanese, ikagai, which means life purpose and direction. It seems many cultures are struggling to define what it means to have passion and commitment, but to also strike a balance.

At AccelaWork, our vision is to transform the American perspective on work. Part of that means embracing the human element of labor, which requires breaks, time off, healing, and again, balance. We don’t aim to make everything fun, but at the same time, we’re not afraid of having a good time. We don’t set out to be lazy, but we’re also not expecting anyone to work hundred hour weeks.

It’s only fifteen words, but it’s radically different than what so many companies practice:

If you can’t work, it’s okay to go home. If you’re sick, go get help.

If you’re not 100% at this moment, take a break and recharge. Heal thyself. But if you’re feeling good, if you’re ready for the next task: then do what we all agree is best and move on to whatever is next.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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