When You Miss Work – Like Me Today


This past Saturday, I woke up and it was like any other Saturday where I mentally thought about the various things I wanted to do. High on that list was getting the garden furniture all put inside for the winter, and the canvas off one of our gazebos’ put away too. I got all that done; but shortly thereafter, I was done too.

For the first time I felt something tighten up in my lower back, and I suspect it happened when I put two plastic cushion storage boxes up high in the garage on a shelf. It wasn’t so much they were heavy, but I think it was the twisting of my body while on the ladder to grab them both, hoist them overhead, climb another rung and put them on top of each other on a shelf overhead.

So Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday was spent walking around hunched over like I was 95 years old. Sleeping was awkward and fitful, and nothing seemed to work for long to relieve the pain.

Now this morning I called in ill, and the clerk on my team had a good laugh at my predicament, (all in good fun) because I hardly ever take any time off work at all. Usually, I’m the guy she tells first on the team when someone is away, and I try to figure out a solution to cover the absentee employee’s responsibilities for that day.

So I’m fortunate in that I’ll get paid for the day even though I’m at home. My record is otherwise excellent when it comes to attendance, and I don’t have to worry much about what’s going on at work or the reception I’ll get upon my return.

However, if you work for a company where you don’t have such benefits, or you haven’t reached your probationary period, you might find at the best you lose a days pay, and at the worse, you lose your job. Oh I know, that shouldn’t happen and workers should be protected, but companies have businesses to run, and employers sometimes cut a person loose and hire someone else. This is generally true if you have an entry-level job and the position is one you’ve only been at a short time.

The person looking for work can take some comfort knowing they didn’t have a job to go to if they are ill or unable to get about, but it’s also a day that they might get a call for an interview over the phone, and that might not be able to be accomplished. If you are normally in good physical shape, how do you convince someone on the other end of the phone that today is the one day a year you fell ill, and not a regular occurrence?

So here I am, ice packs and heat in alternating measures, trying to loosen up a back that feels stiff as a board. The weather outside is dreary, cool and wet, and so I’m confined to the couch with both the laptop and the T.V. changer. The only sound in the house otherwise is the persistent quiet call of the fridge beckoning me over to explore it. How long can a guy’s willpower be expected to win out?

Tomorrow when I return, (and there’s optimism for you) I will want to thank the team I’m on for covering for me; and in particular the person or people who had to adjust their own plans to do the job I was assigned to do. There will be the obligatory time sheet to fill in and record my absence, and the inevitable jokes about me getting older! All in good fun.

If you find yourself with a day off, it’s a good practice to ensure you contact your Supervisor directly, explaining the reason for your absence, and to do this prior to your normal starting time. As each workplace is different, knowing your specific responsibilities is critical. Some employers will perhaps require a medical note verifying your absence, and if not for a day or two, they may if the absence is drawn out for three or more.

Have you got the kind of employer who respects your privacy while at home dealing with illness, or do you have an employer that feels it’s proper to call you and check in with you? I remember when I first started out in Social Services, one person told me I should always leave my desk in an ordered fashion, so if I broke my leg and couldn’t come in, things would still be easy to find, and others would be able to know my plans with a short time looking. How does your desk look?

Small mercies are always appreciated. In my case, I don’t have a bad cough or anything which would cause me to involuntarily snap and tighten my back further. And I’m glad I’ve got some movies to watch, and a bed just a room away; but I have to pass the fridge to get to it!

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