It's ok to take time off work

May 7, 2020
Let's look after each other and encourage folk to take time off work, especially through these tough times.
When I was at school, if you didn’t take a day off sick you got to go to Thorpe Park (UK folk will know). I fucking love Thorpe Park, so of course, I went to school every day.In fact I didn’t have a single day off school for three years.
Subconsciously, that engrained in my brain that taking days off was something bad and that it shouldn’t be done. We are owed a reward for turning up.In my early twenties, I hadn’t taken a day off sick since I had started working. On recollection, the only time was when I had a seizure in the office and gashed my head on a metal ledge. I was rushed to hospital, but was back the next day, dosed up on painkillers. I’m one of these folk who rarely gets ill, but when I do, I would just put a thicker jumper on and drink a pint of tea from a Sports Direct mug and soldier on through.
As time has gone on, I understand how fundamentally wrong that is. I have undoubtedly gotten much better, however it was (and still to some extent is) a personal battle to overcome this desire to keep on working through any situation.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world is going through some serious stuff right now.A lot of you will be finding themselves in situations now where you are working remotely for the first time. Working through illness is a much easier trap to fall into when you don’t have to commute or go into an office, and potentially more importantly, it is much easier to work on days when you aren’t mentally feeling 100%.
This isn’t good.
As a manager, I am relentlessly telling people the importance of taking time off if they are not feeling their best, many folk seem to have the same mindset as I myself did. I have seen it so many times when folk think they are doing the best thing by turning up, even if it’s from home, ploughing through for the next few days when they are clearly unwell or struggling and then making their own situation worse and ending up in an even worse state.
So many of us are feeling anxious, upset or confused at the minute. We can’t concentrate on day to day tasks as we would usually have been able to, and thats ok! You cannot be expecting to have the same output as you did when the world was in a much better state. We are all human, we all have emotions.At Monzo, we had the concept of a “Mental Health” sickness day. It is not a concept everyone makes use of, but it is coming into its own now. I am trying my best to encourage folk to take some time to work on their own mental health, but it is so so important to have the self-awareness to know when you are not ok and need some time. I took two days this week (Monday/Tuesday) to have an extended weekend after a couple of particularly bad days. Yes that’s right, the guy who usually never takes a day off! :)
Here are a couple of things we can do to help our peers take time off:
  1. Announce and be open when you are taking time off. Talking about it openly makes others realise that this is ok!
  1. Keep people accountable - check in with those you work with and suggest taking some time off if they are struggling in any way. This is especially important if you manage people.
  1. Offer to help accommodate others time off - taking care of simple things like rearranging meetings if someone is going to miss them or making a note of important things to catch up with when they return is super helpful.
As with the people I manage, I encourage you to look after yourself. If you don’t feel like working, then think about taking some time away from work, whether it’s a sick day or a holiday. And if you manage people, ask them how they are feeling, remind them that it’s ok to take some time to rest and recoup. We can help make it easier by offering to help out where we can.
We are all in this together, and we need to take care of each other each step of the way <3

© James Bedford 2021