We Have to Get Over Our Fear of Taking Sick Days

In the After, each of us owes it to ourselves and the world to stay home. A lot.

Annaliese Griffin
Published in
4 min readJul 9, 2020
Disheveled young woman laying in bed holding tissue and tissue box.
Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images

One day, when we’re all properly vaccinated, and it’s possible to sneeze in public without freaking out everyone in a 20-foot radius, I’ll… be staying home.

The pandemic has proven to all of us that staying home works — individually and collectively. We’ve demonstrated that we have the power to flatten all the curves. We can stop the spread of every hacking cough and head cold if we all just curled up at home for a day of drinking red Gatorade and watching Schitt’s Creek when we felt bad.

Which is why I am going to start taking all the sick days. Real sick days, with tea and naps on the couch and no laptop. I’ll be taking sick days because I’m actually sick. I’ll be taking sick days to make up for sick days I didn’t take in the past. And I’m learning to let go of the idea, ingrained in so many of us, that being “tough” is the same as doing whatever is furthest from meeting our needs.

It’s a massive generational shift in thinking. My boomer parents and greatest generation grandparents value stoicism in the face of physical and emotional discomfort. My grandfather was fond of dismissing skinned knees and bee stings by saying, “Well, it’s a long way from your heart.” (He died of congestive heart failure when I was in college.)

For many people, this attitude is not a choice. Almost a quarter of U.S. civilian workers, about 33.6 million people, have no paid sick leave, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. And even among those who have the benefit, American work culture has made it difficult for workers to use it without being labeled a “slacker.” Lately, the “sick day” has been replaced by its unforgiving equivalent, the “work from home” day.

There’s something punitive in this mindset—like there’s some sort of moral failing in taking care of…



Annaliese Griffin
Writer for

Annaliese Griffin is a writer and editor who most recently led the Quartz Daily Obsession, an award-winning newsletter. She lives in Vermont with her family.