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I am currently in physical pain after an injury. It’s healing very slowly and different treatments are tried. My doctor has not put me on sick-leave. He has just told me that I should avoid painful movements the best I can.

My employer currently has a mixture of office and home-office days in place. I am supposed to go to the office 1 or 2 days per week. Because of my injury, I talked my boss into letting me work from home more. When I commute the pain gets worse. Now my coworkers have noticed that I didn’t show up in the office that much.

So here is the thing:

  1. Any additional pressure on my body makes the pain (and healing) worse. After a day of work I need a lot of rest to get the pain under control again. If I am too hard on my body, it gets so bad that I can’t sleep because of the pain.
  2. If I don’t show up in the office as much as the others, people start to talk.
  3. I am not so comfortable with sharing my health-situation with everybody, because I have had some bad experiences with this in the past. I needed to open up about the situation to my direct supervisor, because I had some doctors appointments during working-hours (was not possible otherwise).
  4. Not showing up that much could hurt my career badly.

So: How should I balance this? And how should I answer my coworkers if they remark, that they haven’t seen me in the office for a long time?

I’ve never been in such a situation before and I would be grateful for some ideas.

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    Will your career be impacted because of the talk from your co-workers, because your management are unsupportive of people in your situation or something else? – Philip Kendall Mar 29 at 17:42
  • @PhilipKendall : Not showing up might be seen as not beeing commited enough by management. Since my injury is not visible from the outside, it might be easy for poeple to assume that I exaggerate things. – dragonNoir Mar 29 at 18:16
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    @dragonNoir - But your manager approved you not coming into work. Why are you worried about what management thinks of something they approved? – Donald Mar 29 at 22:32
  • So, telling someone at work you were sick or injured prior had negative ramifications? And is why you haven't told anyone now? And now people are talking about you? Sounds like you have had and continue to have a brand/image issue. Also, why have you not applied for intermittent leave or involved hr? It doesn't sound like you're giving the whole story. – Austin759 Mar 30 at 1:49
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    If you are really still in pain to such an extent, I would suggest your doctor should put you back on sick-leave until you are really fully recovered - no one should risk their recovery over some ppl talking or pressure to get back to the office.. – iLuvLogix Mar 30 at 8:02
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You might be surprised how many people go through such a thing at some point in their lives. The recovery can be a bumpy road vs a straight-line process, and IMO it will be one less source of stress if you just tell them - otherwise it's easy to get into a situation where you are pushing yourself to do 100% when you are only ready for 80%.

Whether and how much to talk about it is certainly your choice. IMO no need to share details with everyone, but the fact that you are working through a medical issue and the impact it has on your availability (in case it's not just until the end of the week) will help group planning, and in turn, this will help you actually get better faster. IMO do it verbally as an aside in a meeting that's happening anyway, starting with people you are closer to. I'd expect most people will be supportive. Maybe a handful will not, maybe a handful will have a well-meaning but annoying reaction. That's all normal.

Regarding working from home -- IMO if you're stuck at home you will probably end up spending much of the day looking at a phone or computer screen anyway, so might as well put that time to a productive use. Obviously go with whatever your doc says here. Don't beat yourself up about it if you have to slow down a bit. If there is an element of ergonomics or needing regular breaks that should have first priority. Take care of yourself.

PS, Re: hurting career: Not recovering to the full extent possible will hurt your career the most. Misleading others (and yourself) about your availability can put you in a situation where you are forced to push yourself physically before you are ready.

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How should I balance this?

Either have your doctor put you on sick leave, or show up as often as you can so as to avoid hurting your career badly.

And how should I answer my coworkers if they remark, that they haven’t seen me in the office for a long time?

Something like, "Yup, I haven't been in the office in a long time." would work. Then, focus on your work and not whatever they say when "people start to talk".

Since you don't want to be open about your situation, you'll have to learn how to ignore them.

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  • (I don't have much experience, mostly speculating based on assumptions) Isn't there a risk that being vague about not coming will accidentally encourage them into asking more uncomfortable questions? – Clockwork Mar 30 at 11:02
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It's none of their business.

Your boss is OK with you working from home. Nobody else should care.

Since people do talk, what you need to do is communicate that your working from home is both permitted and necessary. You can start by mentioning to people that your lack of presence in the office is permitted.

Folks, sorry I haven't been showing up at the office much. I've not been able to come in to the office, and [Boss] has given me special permission to work from home.

You don't need to give more details than that.

Alternatively, or as well, get Boss to make essentially the same announcement to everyone.

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