When you call into work with a stomach bug, no one gives you a hard time. But if you’re just dealing with a cold, your colleagues will practically judge you through the phone. They’ll say something like, “Just take some DayQuil and come to work like everyone else.” But is this the best decision? When you’re sick with a cold, do you lose more work by staying home or going into the office and risking getting everyone else sick? Different experts have varying opinions.
Samantha Markovitz, founding coach of GraceMark Wellness & Lifestyle Coaching in California, strongly discourages going to work. “Not only is it disrespectful to your colleagues to increase their exposure, but it is also likely to disrupt your own productivity,” she says. “You may as well be at home resting and allowing your body to get better so you can get back to 100 percent at work, rather than suffer through as a martyr at 25 percent.”
On the other hand, Roy Cohen– a career coach and author based in New York City suggests that staying home isn’t always an available choice. “When you have important deadlines to meet and your colleagues rely on you, choosing to stay home—the best decision generally for everyone—is both impractical and unappreciated.”
To avoid being a source of sickness for your colleagues, you could speak with your boss about working from home. If you must go into the office, follow these tips to stop the spread of germs.
1. Do use common-sense germ prevention.
To prevent the spread of germs, wash your hands regularly and clean high-touch areas with Lysol (e.g. doorknobs), as Markovitz suggests.
2. Don’t sneeze into your hand.
Use your elbow instead of your hands, since it won’t touch office equipment and will be more sanitary, she adds.
3. Do load up on vitamins.
To reduce your cold time, Markovitz says to take supplements like Airborne and Emergen-C. Fill up on fresh fruits and veggies too, and get plenty of rest – we all know how important that is but sometimes need a reminder!
[Related: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take A Day Off Work – Unless You’re Truly Sick]
4. Don’t shake hands with anyone.
In order to avoid shaking hands and potentially getting sick, simply tell people you meet that you have a cold. Also, try to limit your Other exposure by avoiding the communal coffee maker and those free cookies in the break room, Markovitz suggests. The golden rule is key: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you saw a coworker who was sick sneeze into her hand and then uses the office Keurig, odds are good that you’d be both annoyed and grossed out.
5. Do take extra precautions on your worst days.
Colds are most contagious during the times when you feel sickest (usually around day three), so it is vital to take extra care not to spread germs. Physician and clinical instructor Tsippora Shainhouse of the University of Southern California says that you are still minimally contagious during the second week of being sick—when you have that lingering cough. In other words, take a day off from work when you’re feeling really sick. And if going into the office is unavoidable, make sure to sanitize your hands and workspace frequently.