I have got quite a nasty cold. Nose is dripping and such, I will spare you guys the additional details.

I work in an open workspace environment. Blowing you nose once wouldn't be frowned upon, but I would be disturbed if it would happen frequently, so the cold requires me to frequently (like every 15 minutes) go the bathroom to blow my nose.

This may be interpreted as slacking off by my co-workers. Even though I want to spare them the noise of me blowing my nose in the workspace.

How to deal with a cold in the workspace?

  • 2
    possible duplicate of When is it ok to leave work early for the day due to feeling sick?
    – gnat
    May 26, 2014 at 13:00
  • @gnat, I disagree that this is a duplicate. While they are certainly related, this question is specifically asking about how to carry yourself while sick in the office. The other question is asking when it is acceptable to go home when sick rather than stay in the office. While there may be some overlap (since one of the solutions may be to ask to go home), the questions are definitely distinct.
    – jmac
    May 30, 2014 at 6:04
  • @jmac meta.stackexchange.com/a/194495/165773
    – gnat
    May 30, 2014 at 7:10
  • When I have a cold I stay home if possible and sit through it without any meds. If I have to go to the office, I take a pill (plenty to choose from) that helps reduce the symptoms (e.g. reduce nose dripping) even though it might get me a bit drowsy at some point. I try not to make much noise blowing my nose, and if I do need a good blow I prefer to take it to the toilet (and wash my hands afterwards since I'm there anyway).
    – Daniel
    Mar 4, 2017 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


Stay home if you possibly can.

Otherwise get a big bottle of hand sanitizer, place it prominently on your desk, and use it visibly. This signals you're not well, and also shows that you're doing your best to prevent your co-workers from getting sick.

Then, don't be embarrassed about blowing your nose. It's probably not as big a deal to others as it is to you.

If you deal with the public, when you first meet a person say "Excuse me, but I won't shake your hand today because I have a cold."

Sneezing a lot? Not so good for public health. Stay home.

  • And what do I do when handling clients?
    – Kevin
    May 26, 2014 at 12:31
  • 1
    Notify them before shaking hands and be conscious of giving off the appearance of appearing "clean" just like you would be with your co-workers.... but preferably reschedule for when your well. You don't want to present yourself to clients while you are sick. May 26, 2014 at 12:34
  • 4
    @Ajaxkevi Clients can wait until you get back the next day or so. If they can't, escalate to your manager. That's what the manager gets paid the big bucks for. May 26, 2014 at 12:35
  • 18
    @Ajaxkevi - don't handle clients. If I'm a client, and a company sends a visibly sick (and possibly infectuous) individual to meet me, that's a very seriously unprofessional behavior of the company that would cause me to reconsider our relationship - the company should send a replacement or reschedule if they're incapable of replacing you (though that's a negative sign by itself, if they have no replacement capability). In some areas handling clients in this case may be simply illegal (e.g., anything involving food), but in all areas that's unprofessional and unacceptable.
    – Peteris
    May 26, 2014 at 14:29

As a programmer you usually "get in the zone" after 20-30 mins of work, so interrupting it every 15 mins will drop your productivity massively.

Now imagine you infect 10 coworkers and the effect of everyone running to the bathroom. Although you could then agree to skip the running.

Stay home, get well, go work again. Even the interruption by your nose blowing or the walk to the bathroom might distract people enough to slow down everything.

  • 4
    I don't think there is any indication in the question that the op is a programmer? Apologies if I have missed it. May 29, 2014 at 7:42
  • I am not a programmer. Also I'd like a source for your claim: "As a programmer you usually "get in the zone" after 20-30 mins of work"
    – Kevin
    May 30, 2014 at 11:45
  • @Ajaxkevi - joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000043.html is considered a source, IMHO, and it sounds like Joel is getting this information from the book, Peopleware. Hope this helps. See the section "8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?" of Joel's blog post.
    – jmort253
    May 31, 2014 at 2:50

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