Some background is needed here. I'm a young worker from an IT company, so I'm lacking experience to deal with my current situation.

I'm not quite the strong guy who can resist everything and be fine, more like the one who can get the cold very easily during autumn/winter. It's quite common for me to get sick three or even four times in that period. Not to the point I can't work, but to the point I'm tired and have difficulty to work. Yet, since it occurs quite often, and since I'll be okay after just one day I try as much as I can to not take sick leaves for such mild disease. It would impact my work more than coming to work while sick, and also definitely impact my paychecks in a way I can't handle it. Young worker means not much income, which I can't afford to lessen.

The problem is, the first time, my coworkers where okay with that. After the second time, they began joking cynically about that. This year is the third time I do that, and definitely they're becoming bitter about the subject. They believe (rightfully or not), that by coming at the office sick, I make them sick too. I can't blame them for this, as I think it might be true to some extent (nonetheless, everyone in my office must take the metro to work, and meet probably tens of sick people there but whatever...).

It has come to a point where it escalated gently to my project manager. By gently I mean it is no disciplinary action, just unofficial talks between me and the project manager, and in one occasion, with a part of the team. He wants me to take days off when I'm sick. And if at first, it was for my health they were concerned, now they are concerned by the team in general.

Here comes my problem. It's been two weeks I'm not sick to the point I can't work. Yet I'm still occasionally coughing, blowing my nose, sneezing. When my coworker hear me, they feel uncomfortable as if I could still make them sick, and they tell it to me. Perhaps I can, but it's been two weeks, do they expect me to take ten days off to heal? Do they expect me to do this every time I catch the cold? Should I do that, it would require thirty days of leave. That's insanely huge.

My situation is not too difficult yet, but I have the feeling it will worsen as time goes, like it already happen, going from "Okay don't overwork" to "Stay away from me forced laughter". I think I might have to take sick days just to make my coworkers feel better and I don't like that idea. I don't like the idea either of being considered the cause of everyone's diseases.

What are my best options at this point?

I considered:

  • Taking a day or two each time I'm sick, using my paid leaves. It will hurt my planned holidays but less than having something like 10 days of unpaid work a year.

  • Working remotely. Since I'm not sick to the point I can't work, asking my boss to work from home a day or two would help me curing my cold faster, without being seen as a 'viral weapon of mass destruction' by my coworkers.

  • Taking several days of sick leaves each time, mostly to accommodate my coworkers. Don't like such option, because I definitely don't need these and it would have a bad financial impact for me.

  • I considered coming to work with an antiviral face mask as people do in Asia, and to use an hydro alcoholic solution to wash frenetically my hands whenever I get sick. Yet I work in restricted access environment, and facial masks are really uncommon there. I fear it could be seen very negatively by security.

  • Last option, the one I wish to avoid: escalate to my direct manager (not the project one) or even to HR. In case nothing works, I just thought I could escalate, to ask being sent in another team.

I already read this subject in The Workplace: Dealing with co-workers who don't want anyone to use sick days and so I understand what disturbs my coworkers. Yet if I were to listen them every time they say "Stay at home" I'll end up unemployed soon for sure.

  • 17
    Have you told your project manager that you cannot afford to take unpaid sick days? (My advice would be to move to a civilized country where they understand that paid sick leave is better for everyone, but that's probably not practical)
    – Erik
    Feb 22, 2018 at 12:52
  • 7
    Where are you located? Many countries require that companies provide a certain number of paid sick days.
    – David K
    Feb 22, 2018 at 13:01
  • 3
    What does your doctor say?
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 22, 2018 at 13:32
  • 4
    @HorusKol: According to this page (French), to get sick pay, you must be with your employer for at least a year and must have a doctor's note. Even then, the first three days of absence are always unpaid, and sick pay is only 50% of your regular salary (67% with 3+ children). So if OP were to take a day or two off multiple times, that would be unpaid leave.
    – sleske
    Feb 22, 2018 at 14:48
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    @sleske, your link points to the french law, and the top of it,(almost ?) every company will have a convention collective (another set of rules, company-dependent) that gives workers more advantageous rights. Every company I've worked in France always paid its employees for short sick leaves given they had a doctor's note. What OP should do is check arrêt maladie in their convention collective. Feb 1, 2019 at 8:25

4 Answers 4


This is a pickle alright. Obviously, taking extra sick days just to make them paid isn't a very productive approach (not to mention that, base don what you said, you'd only be paid roughly 6 out of 8 days, which means that you're still getting shafted for 1 or 2 days of pay, whether you go out for one or two days or you extend it. Either way, your financial situation suffers the same hit.

Working from home seems like the best option of those you've mentioned, if your boss is okay with it. You might want to make clear how frequently you expect to need this option, if you find yourself frequently getting sick for short periods.

Barring that, I would at least talk to someone in security about the mask idea. Your concern there seems to be whether building security would take issue with you wearing a mask on your way in, so ask them one day, as you're going through, what their policy is regarding people with face coverings. It may be sufficient to take it off briefly while going through security, and then you can put it back on while you're in the office.


If you have a fever, or if you have had a fever in the last 24 hours, it is your civic duty to stay home and avoid making other people sick. If you can't afford to miss work, talk to your employer about other strategies, such as opportunities to work from home.

In most circumstances, going to work when you are contagious is unprofessional behavior.

With all that said, it sounds like your problem runs a little deeper. The fact that you are sniffling or coughing does not necessarily mean you are contagious. Resolving your problem may be as simple as sharing some flu prevention tips with your coworkers. Doing so will inform them, which should reduce some of the fear that they are exhibiting. Also, it will show them that YOU understand the facts and how to avoid making your colleagues sick when you are contagious.

For more on flu prevention, check out the CDC website. They have many useful resources, like this: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/fluandyou_upright.pdf

  • Upvoted for the last paragraph. Feb 1, 2019 at 21:33

I would have a short but serious talk with my general medical doctor in this case.

It is my understanding that 1) your coworkers are concerned about their health, not yours and 2) there may be the possibility that you are not contagious.

In my experience, it often happens that cold weather is causing sympthomps (e.g. cough, sneezing) that are a normal body reaction and are not related with biological infection. Namely bacteria and viruses.

While I am no doctor and medical advice should not be allowed here, it is common sense that if you are just showing sympthoms without a real infection, there is no danger for the people around you.

I would ask the doctor about what sympthoms to expect in order to take a sick day. Negotiating a work-from-home day is a plus.

That does not mean calling the doctor every day you feel unwell. I expect that the doctor says something like "if you don't show bone pain and temperature at the same time, you can work". That is an example.

Final word: use your doctor's professional advice to decide whether to go work or not. If you go work, make it clear to your manager that you have been adviced by your doctor to go work, and there is no danger for the health of your coworkers.


if it's just minor symptomatic stuff, I strongly suggest you take decongestants, which will nearly completely deal with the nose running/coughing/sneezing stuff.

Also, take supplements - i find krill oil, multivitamins and vitamin d to be really really helpful when taken consistently.

When you are properly ill, then take the day off.

You can also try to wfh when ill, which will probably be supported by your department.

  • I don't know why this got down voted I am on immunosuppressant's/ antirejection drugs but the vitamin D I am also taking seems to have stopped me getting a cold this winter Feb 22, 2018 at 17:06
  • 4
    I was not the downvoter but I believe that the post was rightfully downvoted because it contains medical advice. We should not allow this on Workplace SE. Medical advice is for professional doctors and subjective. Feb 1, 2019 at 17:52

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