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Published on 28th November 2022

You can only be the best you are on that day, and that’s okay


Recently I text my manager and then called the work absence line to report that I was taking a ‘medical absence day’ off work. As the lady on the other end asked me to categorise my illness I inwardly cringed as it went down as a “cold and cough”.

It was a Friday and I had been fighting the cold and cough all week. Still working through, choking through meetings (virtually!) and wheezing just walking between rooms. Luckily it wasn’t covid but had all the similar symptoms. I had all but lost my voice and by Friday I was drained – the cold had won. But yet having a day off for a ‘cold and cough’ felt a bit pathetic.

You see for me I have always felt you should only really call in sick if you are bed bound and/or hugging a toilet. As I was neither of these I had a huge internal battle with myself before making that phone call. Despite feeling awful, I had to convince myself that I really was ill enough to be off work.

I mean was I really ill ill? It’s a Friday, will people think I just want a long weekend? What have I got on today? Could I just sit on that meeting and still somehow be present enough? If I take today off then how much more will I have to do next week?

It was a hideously busy period at work, an inconvenient time to be ill, and I felt incredibly guilty. But I’m grateful that I work for a company that really does put wellbeing at the heart of their people, so I knew I’d be supported and not judged by others.

There were two questions that really convinced me:

  1. Will taking one day this week mean I’ll be feeling better quicker?

Yes – undoubtedly three days of rest was going to be better than two.

  1. What would I say to a colleague?

Listen to what your body needs.

So my internal challenge resulted in that phone call, to cringe at the ‘cold and cough’.

In this new world of working from home more often it can feel that it’s easier to soldier on, and that giving something is better than nothing. I’m not advocating calling in sick where it’s not needed, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s harsh on themselves when they really are ill. In cold and flu season, and when burnout is so easy to do, remember that it’s okay not to feel 100%. Sometimes you just need to listen to what your body needs, and trust that it’s right.

And finishing on a phrase from a recent training course which has stuck with me – “you can only be the best you are on that day, and that’s okay”.

Victoria Lemmon, WUN advocate