Working when ill

It’s something I’ve done a lot of over many years. One of the advantages of being self employed is that you have some flexibility when sick. You also have no scope whatsoever for sick pay, often there’s no one who can cover for you, and being ill can be expensive in that it can cost you future work. Increasingly, conventional workplaces seem to be pressuring people to work when ill as well.

I know from experience that I’m considerably less efficient when ill. It plays havoc with my concentration. I move slowly, making more mistakes, my judgements are never as good, I don’t have good ideas. There isn’t an ailment out there that won’t be easier and quicker to deal with if you’re able to rest, and won’t be exacerbated by additional stress. And some illnesses are contagious, and taking those to visit other people isn’t nice. The idea of keeping a human working when they’re sick clearly isn’t informed by anything real about the implications of illness.

Over time, there’s a bigger and more insidious impact to working when ill. It dehumanises you. It takes away the sense of being a proper person with the same rights as other people. You’re just a thing to keep slogging along to get the work done. This is one of the ways in which a physical health problem can easily develop into mental health problems as well. Exhausted, demoralised people who are obliged to keep suffering are likely to end up with low self esteem, anxiety and depression at the very least.

I will do the things I absolutely have to do, and then I’m heading back to bed with a book – because I can, and it’s a far better idea. There will be many other people obliged to work a full day today, despite being sick. Some of those people will be doing unpaid domestic work, but that doesn’t guarantee you respite, either. Given that the amount of work available is decreasing as people are replaced by machines, we could collectively square up to this and bring in a citizen’s income, so that no one has to work full time, and no one has to work when they’re ill. Failing that, better worker’s rights and a better social safety net would be a great help.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Working when ill

  • bone&silver

    I always think I’m incredibly lucky when I can stay in bed when sick! And I wish we could all only work a 4-day week: imagine how wonderful it would be- more time for gardening/growing own veggies, more time for family & connection, more time for Art and ritual. Divine : )

  • Jen - Liminal Luminous

    yes, this is a key part of me being self employed. I’ve been floored with anxiety and fatigue the last two days, because I had hospital appointments both days. So I fended off email and just relaxed. Today I am working really well and at full capacity. If I had forced myself to work then I would have suffered for longer

    I do think we should seriously investigate universal basic income, but find a way to limit rents so they don’t go up in proportion to this.

  • Tanya Simone Simpson

    “This is one of the ways in which a physical health problem can easily develop into mental health problems as well. Exhausted, demoralised people who are obliged to keep suffering are likely to end up with low self esteem, anxiety and depression at the very least”

    I’m really glad I found your blog. Every time I read something here, it strikes a chord with me 🙂

  • MossBadger

    I’m also thinking that universal basic income would offer us a more humane, compassionate system and allow us to be more creative with our lives. Thanks for your post, Nimue.

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