should we give extra sick days to employees who can’t work from home?

A reader writes:

Long-time avid reader with a question I’d love your take on before I bring it to my manager.

I’m a manager for an eight-person team for a position that requires 100% of work to be done in-person, on-site, at set times. It’s worth noting that this in-person team is typically the lowest paid and most blue collar in our organization. Almost everyone else in my organization has some flexibility in terms of where and when they work, ranging from full-time remote to one day a week WFH. For those WFH positions, our organization is super flexible with things like appointments, flex schedules, occasionally working with sick kids at home, and working from home when you’re sick enough to not come in, but not so sick you need a sick day.

Lately I’ve been seeing our on-site team coming to work sick with cold and flu symptoms. We do offer sick time and PTO, but I know some of them are running low on sick time due to family illnesses and this horrible cold and flu season.

Would it be reasonable and/or legal to offer full-time non-remote staff more sick leave than people who have remote flexibility? It seems reasonable since I, as someone who can work from home as needed, can choose to work for a day with my sick kid or mild cold symptoms, but they have no option but to burn through a sick day or come to work sick.


Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Please advocate for this. It’s the solution to multiple things:

First, it addresses the very real reality you pointed out, that on-site workers end up needing to use more sick days because they don’t have the option of working from home while sick that some of their colleagues have. (They also might be more likely to get sick in the first place, since they’re coming to work and getting exposed to other people who are in the same situation they are.)

Second, it will help keep germs out of your workplace, thereby keeping other people able to come to work and continue doing their jobs. That’s a win for the everyone, including your employer.

Third, it recognizes the different burden put on on-site workers, and could be a real step toward easing some of the understandable resentment some on-site workers have developed toward remote colleagues over the last few years. (Hell, if you really want to show appreciation to your on-site staff, you could go a step further and offer them some Life Happens days too, which they can use for the life management stuff that requires being at home — cable guy, broken washing machine, whatever it is — but which their WFH coworkers are able to work through.)

Every employer with a mix of workers where some can work from home and some can’t should offer extra paid days off to their on-site employees. Suggest it!

Read an update to this letter

{ 291 comments… read them below }

  1. Lost academic*

    This is great advice. People will have a negative reaction out of the concept of ‘fairness’, but what’s fair to the company is to ensure that staff do not come to work to infect everyone else and are in the best position to stay healthy and financially solvent so they can continue to work there. I work exclusively from home now but would definitely implement this if I were in a position to do so/had anyone that needed it.

      1. online millenial*

        Ha, I was typing up my comment and didn’t see yours, but we’re on the exact same wavelength! Glad to see other people bringing up this idea.

      2. What She Said*

        Exactly this! I had a boss who used to talk about the difference of these two words and insist we need to ensure equity across our work but then her work never actually backed up her words. She always caved to the “it isn’t fair” complainers. I also had another boss who would tell if me if so-so site had to be on site then so do we. They can’t do their work from home but we could. So basically we need to expose ourselves to getting sick just because this other site has no option but to be on-site. But it’s what’s fair right?

        Give your onsite people more personal option days, please.

        1. Peanutty*

          Yes! And the complainers have the option to return to office if they so choose. It’s unbelievable that some WFH employees seem to want it every which way.

      3. Sharpie*


        As someone who has done blue-collar work that has to be done on site, albeit in the UK, having extra sick days would do so SO much towards boosting the morale of your blue-collar colleagues. Working any sort of physical job while combating a chesty cold, for example, is just going to be miserable and prolong the cold plus risk spreading it to their immediate colleagues.

      4. Loch Lomond*

        Exactly, it’s ok (and even desirable!) for your rules to have some acknowledgment of reality.

    1. Loredena*

      100% agree! I’ve been able to move to fully remote and the flexibility of that makes a huge difference. For fully in person employees who can’t leverage that option, additional time off for sick would make a huge difference and seems completely reasonable to me

      1. Peanutty*

        Perfectly stated. Unfortunately it’s most likely going to face resistance from the few who want it all.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      In this case, the “fair” option is that everyone has to be back on site every day with little flexibility. In other words, doing the worst of both worlds.

      Some jerks are going to complain, so you’d have to be careful about how you communicate this. Personally, as someone currently doing full WFH, I’d totally support this.

      1. Artemesia*

        The examples are obvious. You can’t leave an 8 or 10 year old home alone sick, but they can entertain themselves if you are WFH — so life is already unfair for those who must be in the office or in the field and have sicks kids.

        What a great idea for leveling the field a bit.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I’m not even sure that many people would complain. The people who need to be onsite are in a completely different role than people who can work remotely, with a different set of requirements. Benefits should reflect this.

        1. Dr. Hyphem*

          The difference in teams/roles also means that it is unlikely to necessarily even make it on the radar of remote employees. I am more or less fully remote because our policy is “do what works best for you as long as your role doesn’t require a physical presence,” and I know there are few teams that have to be physically onsite. If they have been/hypothetically were offered more sick days, I don’t think anyone but that team would know because that’s between them and the employer. I’m not keeping track of anyone’s time off but my own.

        2. Deanna Troi*

          MigraineMonth, I bet a lot more people would complain than you think. I’ve been shocked by how many remote employees (including on this site) whine that they miss out on free pizzas or sandwich platters.

    3. Observer**

      People will have a negative reaction out of the concept of ‘fairness’,

      I don’t think that this is universal AT ALL. I mean, yes there are people who have a school child’s view of “fairness”, but by an large most people are perfectly capable of understanding this stuff.

      The key is clear communications and reasonable policies.

      1. ferrina*

        people who have a school child’s view of “fairness”…

        This is an accurate description. My 6yo is very tit-for-tat right now, but even he is starting to understand that different people have different needs, and fairness isn’t always about giving everyone the same thing.

        It’s also about empathy. I’ve seen certain roles be treated as “less than” because it doesn’t require [insert degree] or doesn’t have [insert status symbol]. When company leaders value all their people, that sends a clear message. And like Observer* points out, being reasonable across the board will avoid some jealousy (not all- some people will just be that way). Communicate, set reasonable policies, and value your people.

      2. Laney Boggs*

        Yeah, i think clear communication at the onset would be fine for most people. “Hey all, while those with WFH capabilities can work from home as usual with mild illnesses, sick children, or even home maintenance, it is not an option for 100% on-site employees like [team]. Therefore we are offering on-site employees only an extra [X] sick days. We encourage all employees who are too ill to work to use their paid leave, but hope this eases the burden on those who don’t have work-from-home flexibility.” Some people are going to act like brats, but those just exist everywhere.

    4. Danish*

      As someone who hasn’t had to set foot in an office since March 2020 unless I wanted to, I think it would make me feel very warm and fuzzy to know that any onsite coworkers were getting the extra paid time off. It really is just so much easier to get work done around appointments when you don’t have to stress about how you’re also going to make the time up. If nothing else you are freeing up mental capacity by letting your workers know they have more flexibility.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Seconding the warm-and-fuzzy feelings! My union recently went to bat for a policy that benefited lower-paid coworkers more than me, and I wrote letters of support for that policy. It sucks to work someplace when your coworkers are struggling to make ends meet, even if you’re getting paid a good salary.

        1. Properlike*

          Same! I’m glad to see union members go to bat for other union members — this is the way it should be done, and I want to see it in the higher education field too (full-time vs. adjunct.) Too often, the unions are played at cross-purposes by management.

    5. just some guy*

      As a mostly-WFH person, I had that knee-jerk “fairness” reaction when I read Alison’s post, and had to remind myself that sick leave isn’t the same kind of benefit as vacation days. Ideally people would all have however many sick days they need to look after their own health and those of co-workers, and for non-WFH that “however many they need” might be higher.

      But, with the mention of staff working from home while “mildly” sick, it’s important for managers to keep a close eye on that and make sure it doesn’t turn into burnout with people trying to push through illness. Nobody should feel pressured to work sick when their body needs rest, WFH or not.

    6. Marshmallow*

      Long before Covid the plant I used to work at offered an extra 40 hr/yr of vacation to shift workers that non-shift workers didn’t get.

      It was never an issue and was great for people that had to work nights/weekends/holidays.

      I feel like this is a similar parallel.

    7. Caroline*

      OP3/ I LOVE how *you* are just expected to have an Amazon account because of COURSE you do, BUT the department, who buys… books… cannot countenance such a thing, dear me no.


      If your boss or anyone else tries to stick you with anything but the smallest incidental charges, your response is ”oh gosh, I’m afraid I’m not able to act as a creditor for the library, I’ll need a means of payment” with a big sunny smile.

    1. TechWorker*

      In the nicest possible way how would this ever be illegal? It’s totally legal/standard to pay people different amounts for different roles, and to offer different benefits for different roles.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          From my experience, in the US, I think most people think more things are illegal than they actually are, and there’s mostly stuff that weirdly isn’t illegal.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yep. Even with the recent rail strikes to remind us that there are in fact 0 federal requirements for sick time.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Even FMLA can be unpaid and only kicks in after you’ve been working at a not-small-business for over a year.

                1. Never Boring*

                  FMLA isn’t necessarily unpaid; your employer can require you to take any other paid time you have available and count it toward your 12 weeks of FMLA eligibility. This has happened to me in the past year.

            1. Luca*

              OT but along this line, someone with labor contract experience wrote to our local newspaper that railroad unions generally have benefit packages others can only dream of. He believed that if certain units didn’t have paid sick time, there had been something else they wanted more, and that was the tradeoff. He would’ve been interested to know details of their previous contract negotiations.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Even from someone with labour contract experience, I feel like there are some deep assumptions in that belief of his.

              2. Properlike*

                There’s “belief” and then there’s “reality” and I suspect the someone with labor contract experience is confusing the two, along with “judgment” for “fact.” I also believe they’ve never worked for a railroad in any hands-on capacity. Imma place a big bet that they work on the side of management.

                For instance: unlimited vacation… that you never get to take, or that can be rescheduled at the last minute, or which you spend “on call.”

      1. Lost academic*

        Sometimes people strongly feel that you can’t give some people a benefit that others don’t receive. But you can.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          You can’t give some people a benefit others don’t receive if it’s along lines of gender, race, nationality, etc. Giving people in different roles different benefits is bog-standard in all fields.

        2. Just Another Tired US Fed*

          Also in the event of collective bargaining agreements, benefits often vary from those not in the bargaining unit.

          1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

            And in the US federal service, those in the senior executive service get to carryover hundreds of hours more of annual leave each year than we peons.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        NAL, but it would be illegal if it was deliberately and unnecessarily excluding a specific protected class. Example I recall from my business law class: if my manager at an accounting firm offered a bonus based on the ability to shoot a basketball through a hoop, that could be successfully challenged as discriminatory, because a) people with physical disabilities would be unlikely to be able to do it and b) it has nothing to do with the actual work the firm does.

        Extra sick days for in-person people might theoretically hit Part A IF people with disabilities or other protected classes were still WFH, but because it’s directly tied to a necessary work duty, it would not fulfill Part B.

      3. Rosyglasses*

        I think people often mistake differing benefits as discriminatory which would be illegal – for example, in some scenarios, if it was similarly situated roles that are getting different benefits, that could be argued to be discriminatory.

  2. Nobby Nobbs*

    “It’s worth noting that this in-person team is typically the lowest paid and most blue collar in our organization.” This is something that gets overlooked a lot in discussions of whether in-person workers should get extra perks. It’s not a universal correlation, but it’s a common one. I’ve never met a remote janitor!

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      At my company, this department and only this department got bonus money in 2020 and 2021. They called it “hazard pay” and they’re not wrong.

      1. ThatGirl*

        At the end of 2020 the office workers at my current job (who were all remote then) basically gave up their regular bonuses to give the manufacturing plant workers extra pay.

        (Now the poor hourly folks only have 2 sick days but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          This is how we end up with outbreaks that take out half the factory, people! Pay the sick to stay home.

    2. BubbleTea*

      My brother has a friend whose tenant was a builder. The house happened to need renovations during the first covid lockdown. The tenant became one of the rare class of beasts: a work from home builder.

  3. online millenial*

    This is a really great suggestion! Gets at the difference between “equality” and “equity.” Equality is giving everyone the same thing, regardless of their needs. Equity means giving people what they need so that everyone ends up with an equitable experience. Yes, some people may end up with more PTO than others, but some people also don’t have to commute, can do laundry while they’re working, and can wear pajama pants during Zoom meetings. The people with WFH options are already getting a lot of benefits that your on-site people aren’t; this is just making sure everyone benefits the same amount, even if the way those benefits look is different.

    I’m mentioning all this because I suspect there might be some pushback from some WFH folks who will feel like one group getting extra PTO is “unfair.” Thinking about how to frame this in terms of equitable benefits might go a long way towards overcoming that.

    1. Melody Pond*

      Your comment made me think of it this way:

      Equality: the same inputs for everyone
      Equity: the same outputs (outcomes/results) for everyone

      1. online millenial*

        That’s a perfect breakdown! (And one that I’ve not seen before despite all my DEI/accessibility work.) I’m gonna save this for the future!

      2. Sharpie*

        There’s a wonderful comic panel I’ve seen that illustrates this. Three people, all of different heights, are standing on this side of a fence watching a game. Equality means they all get a crate to stand on but the shortest can’t see the game. Equity means the tallest doesn’t get a crate but the shortest gets two crates and the middle person gets one and they can all see the game.

        1. Rosieko*

          There is also a version with a 4th panel where the fence has been removed entirely/replaced with one you can see through, representing systemic change to remove the source of inequity. One can dream…

          1. Properlike*

            I worked with someone who would take out the middle panel (equality) and only show the ground-level and the different-sized boxes. Problem was, he was a one-size-box-fits-all leader who clearly needed all three panels to get the concept.

      3. A Simple Narwhal*

        This is a wonderful and succinct explanation, I’ll definitely be keeping it in my back pocket for future use!

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      I think the way to frame it would be something like, “Those who work 100% on-site get 10 sick days and those with WFH options get 5 sick days. If you want 10 sick days as part of your compensation package, you have to commit to being on-site with no WFH options 100% of the time.”

      1. Clisby*

        Yes. Except that 5-10 sick days is a pretty poor benefit. (I’m in the US). But your basic point is correct.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          It is a pretty poor benefit but seems typical in my experience. My spouse worked somewhere with only 3 sick days per year and one week of vacation. Shameful.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Yeah, I was guessing as to what sick leave might look like. I’m in academics and we technically don’t get ANY sick leave, but we all have ways to work around being sick. It helps to be salaried and no one is really looking over our shoulders at our hours unless major things aren’t getting done. So maybe we get ALL the sick leave?

          1. My Cabbages!*

            One of the only upsides to the year+ of online teaching is that students now will occasionally accept a “hey, I’m sick, class is over Zoom today” so I don’t have to stop lecturing to cough out a lung (or at least I can mute myself while I do so).

        3. ThatGirl*

          I’ve never worked anywhere with defined sick time that had more than 5 days. I’m sure it exists, but I think 5-10 is fairly standard.

          1. Clisby*

            When I started work at a US nonprofit in 1988, we got 18 sick days a year (accrued at 1.5 days/month.) When I had my first child 8 years later, I had more than 4 months of sick leave built up, so 6 weeks of my FMLA was paid. (Sick leave could be used only up to what a doctor certified as medically necessary, which typically was 6 weeks for a regular birth, 8 weeks for a C-section.) Downside was that sick days couldn’t be taken for kids/other family members. That came from PTO. (Of course, plenty of people lied and used sick days to cover child care, but technically it wasn’t allowed.)

      2. Caroline*

        Agree. I also don’t think that’s very many sick days generally, and I’d try and frame it as ”no one is expected to work when very ill, but recognising the flexibility and options remote working offers around appointments and minor illness/ injury, we will be offering an extra X days of paid sick / personal leave to full-time on-site staff”.

        The end.

  4. EPLawyer*

    I LOVE this.

    Perfect solution. it allows people who are sick to not come in and spread germs, while ALSO acknowledging that having to be on site deserves perks too.

    THIS is how you boost morale. Not trying to make viral tiktoks happen.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Also a much better perk than the kind I’ve seen offered to in-office staff like “Free Bottled Water!”, “Greasy Pizza!” or “Come Pay For Your Own Massage At The Office!”

  5. AnonInCanada*

    100% this! If remote workers can have the perk of not having to commute, deal with life’s issues on the clock and not having to be as much exposed to viruses, then this perk for those who must report to the jobsite levels the playing field. If only employers can see beyond the ledger sheets to see how this would benefit them.

  6. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    This would be a great policy even if there weren’t disparities with those working from home. In-office workers, especially those with lesser flexibility and resources, would be well served to have such flexibility as a general matter, when feasible.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree, I think this is a Yes, AND opportunity – yes, in-person workers need more paid sick leave *and* the manager should review every possible opportunity to boost flexibility for these workers if they need to leave early sometimes, come late, take a long lunch – maybe overlapping shifts can be arranged sometimes so they can cover for each other – whatever this might look like at your workplace. And have the company provide back-up options, don’t make it that the one in-person staffmember has to call around and find someone willing to come in. These little things can make a huge difference for morale and feeling valued.

  7. teensyslews*

    I know WHY this is not just the case but it seems easier in a situation like this to just have unlimited sick time. The people who would abuse it will find a way to abuse the system regardless, everyone can take the time needed when they are sick, no perception of inequality between the groups. I would love to see a study between workplaces with a “reasonable” amount of sick days (so enough that most people aren’t using them all) vs unlimited sick days and see if there’s actually a disparity in sick days taken, my guess is it would not be significant.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, THIS.

      In my understanding, even unlimited PTO ends up being a better deal for the company than one would expect; unlimited sick time should be a given. Nobody can *choose* how often they’re sick.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Unlimited PTO tends to be a better deal for the company because employees on average take fewer days off than if they had a PTO bank.

        1. Norm Peterson*

          I left a 100% WFH job for this exact reason – unlimited pto meant no pto on my team and I felt like every day I took off when dealing with a legitimate medical issue was looked at with a great deal of suspicion.

        2. icedcoffee*

          the company I work for recently switched to unlimited PTO. My dept head was unhappy about the change for that reason. He really wants people to take their PTO, so he is asking everyone to take at *least* the time they would be alloted under the previous system. Also, the switch was announced in early December, not really enough time for people to take the PTO that they had expected would roll over to 2023. Rather than forcing his entire department to be empty for the last two weeks of the year, he is also encouraging everyone to take that accrued time this year…without tracking it on the official channels.

          After all that, he admitted that he leaves PTO on the table every year.

        3. Mid*

          It’s also a way for companies to avoid paying out PTO when people leave. My state requires unused PTO to be paid out when you leave a job. But unlimited PTO doesn’t need to be paid out, because you can’t quantify unlimited hours.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          The ideal is unlimited sick days, NOT unlimited PTO. There should be a fixed number of vacation days.

          If there is unlimited PTO in general, what happens is what you describe – people actually take less on average. Having a set number of planned vacation days encourages people to take exactly that number.

          However, sick time is unplannable and random, and not under the employee’s control. So it needs to be unlimited to be truly equitable (also as an incentive not to come in and infect everyone).

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Enough sick days that most people aren’t using them all – how many would that be? I currently get four sick days a year, which may or may not be enough for me, let alone the many times I have to take care of one or more sick children at home. In December one of my kids was home sick for a whole week – and since that was at the end of the year, of course I’d already used up all my sick days. (As a remote worker, I’m very lucky that I can make up the hours at night.) But that could easily have been the case in January and my choices are 1) take the day off unpaid or 2) work at night (especially difficult when I’m ALSO sick).

      I imagine the most challenging part of unlimited sick days, or increased sick days for on-site workers (particularly in healthcare), is finding coverage for those positions on short notice.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I get 12 sick days a year (to use for myself or caring for a family or household member) and they roll over. That seems like enough!

        1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

          I also get I think 12 sick days a year that roll over up to a maximum accrual of 180 days. Granted, this policy was set when 99% of employees were entirely in office and now most of us have some hybrid flex. The point is a long term employee who does not have absenteeism issues should be able to deal with a major event without suffering.

          Now that I have hybrid flex I can’t remember the last time I took a FULL day off for sick. I had the dreadful flu for 2 weeks this winter and I worked a portion of most days, enough to stay on top of the fires, not enough to make progress on projects.

        2. Czhorat*

          It might be. Most of the time.

          Last year we had the following:

          I got Covid.
          My wife suffered a broken back.
          My wife got Covid.
          One of our kids needed a medical procedure.

          Those are four events, three of which required more than a week each.

          Any fixed number of days is enough until it isn’t.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Oh, absolutely, and I didn’t mean to imply that it’s “Enough sick days that most people aren’t using them all” even. Just that it’s a decent number.

        3. My own boss*

          12 sick days was plenty when it was just me, but a toddler or a chronic illness can burn through those days pretty fast.

          1. Czhorat*

            Yeah. Sick time is also time to care for family.

            And if you work from an office, taking your kid to the doctor can be a whole day, depending on when the doctor is available.

            1. Clisby*

              It’s time to care for family if it covers that. I’ve worked where taking care of sick family required taking vacation days. Sick leave was strictly for employees.

              1. Never Boring*

                Where I live it’s a legal requirement to allow sick days to be used to care for family. As it should be.

        4. MeepMeep123*

          I’d burn through that in one go, right now. My kid is now isolating at home following an exposure to a COVID-positive teacher, who was maskless and spewing germs at the whole class for a whole 45 minutes before going to take her COVID test, testing positive, and leaving campus. My kid is high-risk and I am going to keep her home for 10 days to make sure that her maskless classmates don’t infect her when she comes back. Since our backup childcare is her elderly high-risk grandparents, that’s out too.

          And that’s assuming that none of us got this thing and that we don’t need to take any sick time ourselves to deal with the illness.

          Thankfully, I am self-employed, I work at home, and I don’t need to justify my sick time to anyone but my clients.

      2. jane's nemesis*

        your workplace is not reasonable – 4 sick days per year is so, so low!
        My higher ed employer gives me 12 sick days per year and I still don’t think it’s enough.

    3. ThatGirl*

      My company offers unlimited sick time for salaried/exempt workers, with the request for a doctor’s note if it’ll be more than 3 days.

      Of course the kicker there is that we merged with (got acquired by) a larger company last year and one of the new policies in effect is that the sick time policy for salaried workers continues, but hourly workers (which includes manufacturing/distribution as well as positions in my building like customer service) got screwed – they only get 2 sick days a year.

      1. Paris Geller*

        two sick days a year? That’s insulting. I’m in a salaried position now (and both our hourly & salaried employees get PTO), but when I was in an hourly position I’d almost rather not have any sick days than just two. At least the company would be upfront with their benefits (or lack there0f).

      2. Loch Lomond*

        At two sick days per year, at that point just offer none. The vaguest fig leaf of legitimacy provided by those two days is almost more evil than just being honest about it.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I have unlimited sick time at my job and it works out great. Our managers are expected to actually manage so if someone abused the policy it would get sorted out. I love it that I never have to calculate the trade-off of sick versus vacation, or look at how much sick leave I have and decide whether I can really afford to use it when I need it.

      The caveat is that the culture has to allow you to actually use it. One of our senior leaders set a good example by taking a necessary sick day even when it landed on one of the most important weeks of the year.

    5. irritable vowel*

      I agree. While I do agree with what everyone here has said about equity, my only concern/reservation is that it could be perceived as tacitly saying to the WFH people that they should be expected to work when they’re sick if they can, rather than taking the day off. IMO this is already an issue – my work group’s managers are constantly having to remind people who are visibly coughing/sneezing/etc. in our Zoom meetings that they should take the day off if they’re not feeling well. Offering unlimited sick days to everyone would remove this perceived expectation.

      1. Alias Sydney*

        That’s the only seemingly negative thing I thought of. WFH people should be able to take the day off, completely, but often don’t, and that may also be because of limits on sick leave.
        It’s good to have the flexibility to work if you want to, but they should be encouraged to *not work* at times and just get better.

    6. Colette*

      I worked somewhere with unlimited sick time, and there was no issue. I only know of one person who was told they’d need a doctor’s note because of their sick time, and she was legitimately sick.

  8. Slow Loris*

    I think this is a great idea, but I if there enough coverage/backup to allow on-site folks to take advantage of sick time. Maybe in this workplace there is, but there are many workplaces where finding coverage is a constant issue. Give them the time, but also make sure it’s practical for them to use it without feeling guilty or leaving the business too short-staffed.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That’s a great point. I love the idea of making things more equitable for those who have to do their work on site. It’ll be important to make sure that the team is staffed appropriately to make this work.

    2. Observer**


      Don’t be the employer who *officially* gives time, but in practice mostly forbids it by requiring people to find their own coverage.

      And anyone who thinks that this is overstated, I suggest you read the letter from the guy who wanted to make one of his staff stop taking “so many” days by requiring her to find her own coverage.

      The letter states:

      I feel it discourages excessive sick calls to put the responsibility on the technician to find coverage when they really need it.

      Link to follwow

      1. Zap R.*

        Having flashbacks to calling all of my retail coworkers at 6:30 a.m. and croaking at them to please take my shift.

    3. Looper*

      Staffing levels should have no bearing on an employee’s need to call out sick. If an employee is sick and leaves the team short, that’s an employer problem. Forcing employees to find their own coverage when they’re sick just encourages people to work sick and effect/infect even more team members. Also, making employees find their own coverage encourages cliques and favoritism. It should be on the employer to find coverage if a worker is sick.

  9. Kirsten*

    1000 times this. I would go farther to also offer a gas stipend (or, heck, even a company carpool van / grown up school bus) and a childcare stipend (or free on-site daycare) for in-person employees. If the job truly needs them to be on-campus, and that job is mission-critical, that has a value far greater than a few additional sick days. I would say it’s too important to be left up to your lowest paid workers’ probably under-serviced cars and ability to find child care. If the job needs to be in-person, then the company should find all the real obstacles to coming in and remove them.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      It would also be super helpful to have care stipends that can be used for in-home care, for anyone with caregiving responsibilities. This would have been super helpful after my elderly mother-in-law needed surgery and later on when she needed support but was waiting for a place in a care home.

    2. Em from CT*

      One thing I’ve seen past employers do is a Guaranteed Ride Home program for folks working on-site who also took public transit–granted, this was part of the program meant to incentivize transit use rather than a benefit for on-site workers, but it gets at something important; if you’re in office and you have a family emergency and need to get home or to the hospital but the bus runs once every two hours, this can be essential.

      1. icedcoffee*

        My grandma had this in the 60s! She got to take the bus in the morning and a taxi ride in the evening. The motivations for her company were probably paternalistic–a phone switchboard was primarily women–but she appreciated it.

      1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        The report you linked to is about the child care credit, not onsite child care.

    3. GreenCrayon*

      I’d love this because it makes people really evaluate if employees need to be onsite. Rather than bringing people onsite because that’s how things have always been done. Lighter commutes helps everyone. It’s unpaid time and more of a burden if everyone is stuck waiting to get out of the parking lot. Someone who needs to be onsite likely has less flexibility to their start and stop time to avoid these bottlenecks.

      When my group was the only ones who were coming in, we hated being used as the excuse for why a group that are in meetings across worksites could come in. We’d rather have meaningful support.

      1. M*

        For sure. But wfh people have more flexibility around drop off/pick up, sick kids, etc. Source: seeing the difference in my husband’s ability to accommodate daycare timing/closures etc vs my own (he’s remote, I’m not), and also having seen how much more flexibility wfh has given him (we had daycare before the pandemic too and it’s so much easier now that he’s remote). So it’s not that wfh doesn’t need childcare, but that attaching childcare to worksites solves some of the problems wfh no longer experiences.

  10. L-squared*

    Its hilarious that this came up.

    I was literally going to ask my COO about this myself. As a hybrid worker with days I’m required to be in, when many of my colleagues are fully remote. And having a limited amount of PTO (one bucket for sick and vacation) it makes it MUCH more likely that people will come in sick, because we don’t want to cut into our vacation time. Especially since so many of our colleagues can work sick and no one would ever know.

    1. Problem!*

      The one bucket approach should be illegal. All it does is encourage people to come into work sick because they don’t want to lose vacation days.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I hope whoever first came up with that terrible idea spends the rest of their life and/or all eternity somewhere very unpleasant.

      2. L-squared*

        Honestly, I don’t mind the one bucket approach. I’m single and don’t get sick too often. So it works out that I get more vacation time than I normally would anyway if they separated them out.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I feel the same BUT … I have come to realize that it’s not a good system for a lot of other people, including the disabled, chronically ill, parents, caretakers, etc.

          1. Yoyoyo*

            I should add that while I myself did not get sick often before I became a parent, when I was sick, the one bucket of PTO absolutely incentivized me to come to work anyway.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I never quite understand this. If you used to get five days of sick leave, and then you had kids who were always sick, surely you were either coming in sick or taking other PTO pools for that leave, right? It’s not the unlimited pool that did you in, unless it’s a net decrease over all (like you used to get five days sick and ten days of vacation and now you get eleven days total).

        2. Snow Globe*

          Even for the generally healthy, it’s not really a positive if the person who sits next to you comes in to work coughing and sneezing because they don’t want to lose a day.

        3. Bookmark*

          Yeah, but it really sucks for people who do get sick often or need to take care of people who more frequently get sick, and who then basically never get to take an actual vacation. It’s a recipe for burnout.

      3. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Realistically, there’s no one answer fits all except for (truly) unlimited vacation and sick PTO.

      4. tusemmeu*

        I actually loved that system when I had a job that put it all in one bucket because there was no pressure to prove I was sick, and I’ve had some very bad mental health spirals that started with that pressure when my chronic issues first started revealing themselves. But I know few people have my particular history and neuroses.

      5. Fives*

        We had two buckets until this year, and now it’s all in one bucket. It’s a fairly good amount of time for the US, but I’m not enthusiastic about it being just one. At least my group has a pretty good WFH policy.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      UUUUGH, I hate the one bucket approach. We only get 15 vacation+sick days per year and a limited amount of federal holidays. Luckily, we are able to WFH on days when we’re not THAT sick, but man I hate having to eat into my vacation days when I’m sick to the point where I just need to rest. I agree that it encourages people to work while they’re unwell, and that’s not OK.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      HAAATE the one bucket approach. I had a coworker come to work with extremely active norovirus because he had already booked all his PTO for vacation. The entire office got it. And my kids.

    4. Sunshine*

      I feel like I’m missing something. With the one bucket approach, sure, you might have people coming in sick so they can have more vacation time. But with two buckets there is less sick time to begin with, so you might also have people coming in sick. It feels like there are drawbacks either way, but that one bucket provides more flexibility to those who need it.

      Sure it sucks that parents or someone with a chronic illness might have less vacation days, but isn’t the alternative that they would run out of paid sick days and have to take unpaid leave? That’s worse, isn’t it?

      1. Sunshine*

        Or is the problem that people assume that the one bucket approach means they can use all of that PTO for vacation and book it in advance, then end up needing additional sick time? I just don’t know if either approach actually cuts down on people coming in sick!

      2. Spearmint*

        Two things:

        1. Companies that have separate sick time tend to give more PTO overall than companies with combined PTO. The reason is that if employees have combined PTO they’ll all take all their PTO each year, whereas with separate sick time most employees won’t take all of it so more sick time can be offered for those who really need it.

        2. I think there really is a not totally rational psychological thing going on too with combined PTO. Even if I rationally know I should budget some combined PTO days for sickness, in practice I’ll always feel like I’m burning a vacation day when I call out sick, so I’ll be more likely to tough it out and come into work.

        1. Sunshine*

          Oooh, I see. I was thinking more like a choice between either 15 PTO days or 5 sick + 10 vacation. It makes sense that companies would give more sick time if they were divided, though!

        2. Bookmark*

          Not to mention employers are generally more willing to be flexible around extra sick time if you really need it than they are for extra vacation time. So, you might be able to work out a couple additional sick days at a company with separate policies (either by an employer being flexible or through a formal sick time bank), but at a place with combined PTO (which, as you note, is often also super stingy!) you’re more likely to get “well, you would have had enough if you hadn’t taken a whole 3 vacation days this year”

    5. Looper*

      Every job I’ve ever had has been a “one bucket” approach and it suuuuuucks! People work sick constantly and don’t take needed, actual vacation time off.

  11. Emily*

    I love this idea! (Spoken as someone who has to be in-person and got taken advantage of when co-workers got to work from home).

  12. New Yorker*

    I am a full time remote, and I really support this. I need certain people in the office, mostly lower paid mail room people and the like. Our firm gives them priority on parking, etc. but this is a good idea.

    Our firm is now working on seeing if excess space can be used for a day care facility, which our employees would have priority.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m just weighing in on how much I love that the mail room folks get priority parking.

      And onsite childcare is such a dream!

  13. mf*

    As a remote worker, I fully support this idea. A few years before the pandemic, I was an hourly on-site employee with a lot of salaried coworkers who could WFH when they were sick. It always felt wildly unfair to me–in practical terms, they were definitely getting more PTO than I was because they never had to use it for sick days or doctors appointments.

    Also, I always went to work to sick unless I was so sick I absolutely couldn’t work. (Gee, no wonder we had a global pandemic! It’s kinda obvious now how that happened, isn’t it?)

    1. WomEngineer*

      I’m hybrid and support this as well. Especially for medical appointments… my home office is significantly closer to my doctors than my employer is. I save 2 hours of sick time if it’s a WFH day.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Same, my doctors’ offices are all closer to home. I’ll use less time away from work if I can WFH those days. Even if it have a telehealth appointment, I don’t want to do those from the office, either. We have phone pods, but I don’t full trust that someone walking by couldn’t accidently hear part of my conversation with a health provider.

        1. icedcoffee*

          My office was across a state border from my home. Turns out in my state (and the neighboring one), providers couldn’t do telehealth across the border. So much for that convenience.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Agree. I am just getting over an upper respiratory infection that lasted nearly 3weeks. I only needed to take off 1 day, because I was well enough to sit at my desk the rest of the time. If I was working from the office I’d have run through nearly half my annual PTO in January.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        In a similar boat here. I’m on day 4 of covid, and feeling well enough that I’ve worked most of the day today, after taking part of Monday and all of yesterday off. If I were one of the front-line staff at my office, I’d have no choice but to take the entire week off.

        (I’m discovering that “work as much or as little as you feel like, and no one will think badly of you if you don’t get to everything” is actually a kind of enjoyable way to spend a few days…)

      2. mf*

        Amazing, isn’t it, how remote work allows so many people to work MORE. And yet we keep hearing how CEOs are throwing temper tantrums and making people come back into the office even though their actual job functions could be done from home.

  14. irene adler*

    To further encourage onsite workers to stay home when ill, allow up to three consecutive sick days to be counted as one sick day. IOW: a two-day or three-day absence is counted the same as a one-day absence. This helps prevent folks from pushing themselves to return to work too soon- potentially risking sharing any illness with co-workers.

    1. Yvette*

      At one point I worked somewhere where up to 3 days was an occurrence and you had x number of occurrences per year.

    2. Essentially Cheesy*

      That is how it’s handled with our union (plant) employees. On the third day, a doctor’s note is required though.

      1. irene adler*

        Aww, a doctor’s note? Some people just need time to recuperate. They don’t need a doctor – just rest.

        1. Essentially Cheesy*

          I think that’s what vacation is for, to be honest :) Sick days are for illness, right?

          1. Avery*

            You don’t need a doctor to tell you “rest up and stay hydrated” when you have a cold or a mild case of the flu, but you also sure don’t need to be in the workplace exposing your fellow workers to your illness.

          2. sb51*

            No, to recuperate from the illness; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and risks making more people sick (in the waiting room/on public transit) to make someone getting over the flu but not yet well to go to a doctor just to get a note when the doctor will only say “go home and rest”.

            I assume in countries where notes are more commonly required and health care isn’t a capitalist dystopia, it’s easier to do that? My doctor generally is booking months ahead for anything not urgent and those urgent slots should be for people who actually need something other than a note for work.

            1. Tumbleweed*

              This tends to be a trade off for better sick leave/pay protection by law. Countries that mandate sick leave being at full pay (or 80% pay etc.) Usually also require sick notes to enable that. Americans usually seem to want the former but not the latter – which is fair enough but also not the ‘like europe’ it’s often cited at.

              I’m in the UK which is somewhere in-between, less stringent sick note requirements (self cert up to a week) but the mandatory level of sick pay is very low (and somehow hasn’t increased at all after COVID even though it was a massive point of discussion during…) And only kicks in after you’ve been off 4+ days. If they were to increase the legal entitlement to something more inline with mainland Europe (higher amount or tied to to pay etc) I would also expect the evidencing to increase to the same as well.

              1. Tumbleweed*

                Edit: actually getting a doctor’s appointment to get a sick note is still a challenge though! So worst of both worlds

              2. Allonge*

                Yes, I am in Europe and we also need to produce a doctor’s note after 3 days: I think the point is more that at some point you need to see a doctor.

                To be fair, we have social security so the cost of this is not prohibitive!

          3. Chirpy*

            The vast majority of my illnesses just require rest to heal. It’s just how my body works. And as a low wage worker, I basically can’t afford to go to a doctor for something that’s not life-threatening. Doctors notes are not a good solution in a country that doesn’t have affordable health care.

          4. Loch Lomond*

            People shouldn’t be required to get a doctor’s note for cold of flu symptoms. Although the advent of telemedicine makes this a little less egregious, making them pay $25-100 for an appointment just to confirm they’re… what, not faking? Is a waste of their and the provider’s time.

            Many URIs will need three days of full rest in order to not linger and get drawn out. People need to recover from their illnesses.

            1. Aggretsuko*

              My HMO let me message my doctor, she immediately wrote a note without actually seeing or diagnosing me. I asked for a week off so I could stop barfing, basically.

              1. J*

                Many doctors have taken to billing even for EMR messages because the alternative of not billing means them working without pay. I know two of my providers in different healthcare networks have shifted to this approach. (The exception is if I send a message like hey doc, you forgot to send the pre-auth to my specialist, that’s their mistake so I don’t eat the cost)

            2. DisgruntledPelican*

              A few years ago, my company was completely revamping our policies and someone floated the idea of doctors notes. Thankfully the people I work with/for are better than that and it got argued that if an employee had no reason to go to the doctor other than to get a note for us, they should be submitting their copay to us for reimbursement as a business expense, and any time spent at the doctor getting the note should be considered on the clock since it was a work required task.

          5. Colette*

            I’ve had colds that lasted 10 days, with me being unable to work for probably 6 of those days. Seeing a doctor would just result in infecting others (and costing the health system unnecessary money), it wouldn’t make me healthy faster.

        2. Myrin*

          The thought is that if you’re too sick to come to work for three days, you’re so sick that it’d be better for you to go see a doctor anyway. I don’t know that I fully agree with that but I also don’t necessarily think it’s terribly misguided. (Also, where I am – not in the US – the ones who care about a doctor’s note much more than employers are the health insurance companies because they’re the ones paying your salary for the days you’re marked as “sick”.)

          1. Loch Lomond*

            Unless you need Covid testing, there’s absolutely no reason to go to the doctor for a cold or flu, which is one of the main reasons you’d be out for three days. If it’s longer than a week and not improving, maybe make sure you don’t have pneumonia or bronchitis. But no, a three day cold is not a good reason to take up one of your primary care physician’s (or a PA or ARNP)’s very limited time slots.

            1. Sloanicota*

              It’s funny that anyone would still think “three days is too long for a normal illness” while we’re just coming out of a pandemic that demonstrated you’re likely contagious for 14 days with Covid! And many people were feeling pretty lousy a good chunk of that time. I think a week is a pretty normal time to be out with the regular flu. I could see requiring a doctor’s note if someone was out for longer than a full week, but not for 3 days – that’s just intended to be punitive.

              1. workswitholdstuff*

                I got my positive test for covid on the 2nd of Jan, and I’m still not right.

                Thankfully, working in a UK Local Authority and with a supportive boss, I’ve been able to take the time off I need to get better (or at least to a ‘can function well enough to wfh’ – hopefully by monday!).

                It’s the first time I’ve every had to get a Sick Note from the Doctor though (and I’ve been in the fulltime workforce for 20 years, so that’s pretty good going!) – as we can self-certify for the first week – and thankfully, I could just request the note via the GP receptionist (or done it via the apt) – one good thing about covid I guess was being able to go ‘still testing positive, still feel like crap’ and they did it. I think the 7 days is standard UK wide – certainly that’s the guidance I found from the NHS.

                I think in the case of the LP, allowing additional sick leave (this idea that you can put a limit on sick is crazy though) for in-person workers seems fair.

                There have been days in the past I’ve felt ropey enough I wouldn’t want to commute to one of our sites, but commuting from living room to my little box-room study was achievable – wherease my FoH don’t get that luxury!

        3. Bee*

          I remember having to get a doctor’s note to get out of class in college when the problem was that my back had locked up & I couldn’t walk to class – it was just as painful to get to campus health services, and they couldn’t do anything for me anyway!

          1. Zap R.*

            Oh, universities are awful for this kind of thing. And clinics who charge university students a higher rate for a doctor’s note? Special place in hell.

    3. Luca*

      To my annoyance, I had to get a doctor’s note for outpatient surgery for which I used regular sick time. Employer required a note for over three days, and I was taking four. This was during pandemic WFH, so after the four days I could resume work while continuing to heal up.

      They did have to wait for the note, though. First my primary doctor had to do a pre-op exam medically clearing me for the surgery. Primary doc couldn’t see me till after the date my employer ideally wanted the surgeon’s note. Then after being cleared, I had to pin down the surgeon to get the note.

  15. curmudgeon*

    I like my job but we don’t get any sick days. We can use PTO which is ass because I’m not choosing to get sick vs choosing to take vacation.

    So yes please provide PAID sick days to your staff, SEPARATE to PTO, especially those who don’t have the option to work from home.

    1. Justin*

      Well, I think you mean separate from “annual leave/vacation,” right? Because both sick and vacation (and personal) are seen as PTO at my org (and are separate buckets).

    2. Op here!*

      Yep! We already do that, just looking to give some extra for people who don’t have a “work from home with a mild cold” option.

  16. Op here!*

    I’m the OP! So glad Allison and the commentariat agree with me on this one. I’m bringing it up to my boss today. I will report back in an update if I’m able to get any traction on this idea.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Thank you! It will be interesting to hear how they take it and what they think of each of Alison’s points!

    2. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      This is definitely something to use your capital on. Push hard for it! We’re rooting for you!

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I work remotely full time, and I would support this for people who have to be on-site. They have a higher risk of illness than I do (more exposure) and could cause more illness to others if they came in sick. So it’s only fair that they get more sick leave.

  17. Robin*

    Love this idea, but be prepared to get a fair amount of pushback from the WFH crowd. That should not be a deal breaker, to be clear, but have talkin points explaining your position ahead of time, because you WILL get complaints.

    1. Op here!*

      We’re an equity focused non-profit and have lots of discussions about improving policy (just changed from maternity leave to parental leave, added all gender bathrooms, etc…), so I’m hopeful people will get on board. We shall see!

      1. Robin*

        I really hope it works out! I’m pretty cynical, and in my experience people are willing to talk big about improving policy and “equity over equality” until they think someone is getting something better and cooler than them. If that happens, please stand firm, and hopefully your manager will as well.

        1. Rosieko*

          Why not just increase everyone’s sick time to the higher amount? It’s great that many people are able to work from home, but just because they can, should they have to work instead of rest in order to preserve their PTO? It seems like this is acknowledging that people are likely to get sick more often than the sick time given, but then saying some people will still need to work through it. The purpose of sick time is just as much to rest and recover as it is not to spread it to the office. I don’t see why it would be a bad thing to increase everyone’s sick time available. I would also support commute stipends and other one-sided perks for in-office jobs, but this just seems to be revealing that the sick time is not enough period.

          1. Bookmark*

            Well, this is also acknowledging that exposure levels are different, and that coming into the office is more taxing in a lot of ways than working from home, so it’s way easier to rest and recuperate while working remotely. Working from home saves a significant amount of exposure to germs from coworkers, and allowing people who can’t work from home when they are contagious but not particularly sick keeps the rest of the office safe. Ex: I can’t imagine even wanting to take sick time for a mild/moderate cold as someone with a flexible hybrid work schedule. It doesn’t keep me from being productive, I just keep a box of kleenex close and try to avoid being on video calls. But I would avoid being in the office to keep other people from catching it. If you have to be in the office to work, then you’re either burning through your sick time way faster than others, or you’re bringing germs into the office.

          2. Peanutty*

            Additional sick time is absolutely fair for those who work in office. WFH is a huge perk already. If employees don’t like it they can elect to return to the office FT.

      2. old curmudgeon*

        Thank you for fighting the good fight, OP!

        Speaking as a privileged 100% WFH employee who relies heavily on my less-privileged 100% in-person colleagues for the work that only they can do, I would be totally onboard with seeing them get more sick leave. It won’t ever happen in my workplace, but I am thrilled and excited that you are advocating for it with your employer.

        Solidarity, and good luck!

      3. Peanutty*

        Even if everyone is not on board, it’s a very good idea to proceed with it. WFH is an incredible perk.

    2. Generic Name*

      The people who complain can be offered the same deal. They want more sick time? They can be issued a desktop computer and come into the office every day.

  18. Qwerty*

    I love this idea!

    Give the in-person crew enough sick days that they can stay home during the days they are *contagious*, not just when they feel too sick to work. Often we’re contagious during the early stages before the cold/flu hits us hard, so we take ourselves to work that day because we don’t feel that bad and want to hoard our days for when we’re feeling worse.

    Also, keep providing hand sanitizer and masks! At my last in-person job, we temporarily normalized wearing a mask if you felt a little under the weather, had recently taken a sick day, were around someone else who was sick, secretly thought the person next to you was sick, etc.

  19. Middle Manager No More*

    As a full time WFH employee- I 100% support this. I have lots of advantages over people who can only work from the office (limited exposure to sickness, no commuting time, the ability to manage personal stuff at home easily on my breaks/lunch, etc). It’s totally fair to give those that have to be in the office some perks that balance those things out and acknowledge the extra burden on some of your lowest paid staff without the extra flexibility.

  20. Third or Nothing!*

    This is such a great idea! I have 10 sick days per year, and a chronic illness that makes me miserable several times per year. When I worked in office, I used up every sick day every year. Now that I’m remote, I almost never use them all because I can do lots of things here at home to make the pain more bearable. As an in person worker, I needed more sick days.

    1. Danish*

      This was me! For the like three years prior to Covid I never got to take vacations, since Chronic Illness made sure I ate up all my PTO in little drips and drabs of 2 or 3 hours here and there and never really got any satisfying time off. This year I took 10 whole days off for the end of December and it was amazing. It is ABSOLUTELY a perk, when you’re WFH and have a bit of flexibility, and onsite people getting extra PTO to account for that seems fair to me.

  21. Justme, The OG*

    Yes. I work somewhere with a generous leave policy and I can work from home when sick. This is a fantastic idea for those who cannot work from home.

  22. X*

    Great idea!

    But also, make sure they have enough coverage that they’ll be comfortable actually taking it.

  23. Zap R.*

    This could be a gamechanger. Good luck, OP! And thank you for advocating for all the blue and pink collar workers out there.

  24. Combinatorialist*

    So I agree with a bulk of the points here and am generally supportive of in-person workers having more sick time than remote/hybrid workers. But something to consider: are people working from home while sick because they have no choice or because they want to? I can work from home, but have pretty much stopped doing so while sick because I recover faster when I can actually rest for real. Do the remote/hybrid workers still able to do this and are working from home when they are mostly better/they don’t want to get behind/a reason of their choice? Because if not, then it sounds like you need more sick time across the board, and probably additionally more sick time for the in-person workers.

    1. Anononononononymous*

      This. I work almost exclusively from home and the pressure to keep on working when sick can be pretty intense. Everyone should feel like they can take off work when they’re sick. That they can rest and recover and not worry about the place falling apart without them or a huge backlog of work when they return. That is my equity dream when it comes to sick leave. :-)

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’m hybrid 3 days in-office, 2 days WFH every week. There’s been a couple of occasions where I’ve WFH all week because I had a cold or a sinus infection. Our office has the one bucket policy where we get 15 PTO days a year (vacation+sick days). I really needed the rest, but I hated losing PTO hours to being sick if it meant I would have less time at the end of the year to spend at home for the holidays or whatever. My manager encouraged me to rest and didn’t pressure me to work, but that idea of losing vacation really got to me. Luckily, we can flex our hours, so I would work a while and then nap. We’re billable on our hours, so I did need to account for them, it just didn’t matter as much what time I was working (unless I had a meeting). I had a very gnarly sinus infection this past spring and I think I took 3 hours of PTO the whole week even though I was miserable.

        This is the first full year working this company and the first time I’ve ever been anywhere with a one bucket approach. It really puts a mental block on me taking sick time…even if it’s self-inflicted. It’s just a really horrible policy on top of already bare-minimum PTO.

        1. Anecdata*

          Yeah, I also have hybrid + 15 days combined leave & have noticed people working from home when they are clearly miserably sick and shouldn’t be writing(and I’ve done it when I had to spend a few days helping a family member with a life threatening crisis, by working from family member’s house). There the key problem is… 15 days is not enough. But for this op, it still seems reasonable to say “enough” for in office workers may be more than “enough” for WFH folks.

    2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I prefer to work a little bit from home. I just got done with a nasty virus so it is fresh on my mind.

      I usually would wake up hacking and coughing and unable to get back to sleep, I would punch in early, get through my email, deal with the fires and then take nap at lunch and punch back in and repeat the email/fire fighting. Somedays I had more energy and maybe used 1 hour of sick time, other days I never came back from the nap.

      Sometimes thinking about work was a nice distraction from feeling like crud.

      If I had to take full days as long as it lasted I would have had more than 600 emails to come back to and probably been mega bored and stressed by the end.

      1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        p.s. Even if I had my coworkers cover for me, which they happily would, the emails would still need to be read to make sure everything got done.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      There’s sick … and there’s SICK.

      If your brain is just a bit fuzzy and your nose is making really unpleasant noises, then being at home with no commute time and a chance to be wrapped up in your snugglies, you can probably be roughly as functional as you would be in the office, so WFH and avoid getting everyone else sick.

      If you’re slammed, and all you can manage is to log in to change your out of office message, then it’s a sick day.

      WFH definitely helps with being on a sick spectrum. For me, half of it is not having to be appropriately dressed and commuted.

      1. The Formatting Queen*

        In 2018 when I was working from home due to construction at the office, I had a kidney stone. If I was still expected to be in the office every day, I absolutely would have called in sick for about a week straight, because who knows when the waves of pain were going to come on and I wasn’t going to chance not being able to drive myself home (either due to the pain or the fact that I wasn’t in pain cause I took an Oxycontin!) But WFH made it much easier to actually work while I was feeling fine and be confident I’d be comfortable otherwise. I do agree with the original sentiment about feeling like you can actually take time off without being judged, however.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’m hybrid and at several points this year I WFH’d sick because I felt fine 95% of the time (mornings are The Worst with colds) but was still sneezing/coughing/blowing my nose repetitively and wanted to NOT spread my germs all over the place if I was still contagious. To me that stage, where you are already feeling better, or if you are feeling bad it will go on for a WHILE (sinus infections, ugh) is where either WFH or extra sick days come in tremendously handy.

    5. Czhorat*

      It depends on the reason for a sick day.

      Say you or a family member needs a medical procedure that takes less than an hour; if you WFH you could take a slightly extended lunch break, deal with it, come back to work. Or, at the most, take a half day.

      My commute to the office is between three and four hour round trip; if I have, say, a routine dentist appointment and couldn’t work from home I’d need to take an entire day.

    6. Colette*

      Remote workers should still have sick time – you can’t and shouldn’t work through every illness. But people who work from the office are more likely to get sick, and need to take sick time for the days when they could work but shouldn’t be around people/don’t have the energy to commute. So it makes sense that they’d get more sick time.

    7. L-squared*

      Unfortunately I think those are 2 separate issues. But the fact is, just having the option to work from bed while you are sick is just much better.

      If people are pressured to still work when sick instead of taking time off, that is a problem. But the fact that the people stuck coming to the office have to also come in is totally different.

    8. just another queer reader*

      When I had COVID I was dying of boredom in isolation, so in many ways work was welcome entertainment.

      (I probably should have taken 1-2 sick days at the start, but can’t change that now.)

    9. J*

      I think you bring up a good point. I have a chronic illness and sometimes a work at home day means just sitting in different positions and in non-work approved clothing or running to a 7-15 minute doctor’s appointment 5 minutes from my house over lunch. I can be very productive those days and wouldn’t think of taking leave.

      But I’ve also had a major sinus infection or recovered from the early days of gallbladder removal and people gave me pushback as to why I needed a day off when I was working from home. In the former, I needed it off because I have a secondary health issue and needed medical monitoring and in the latter I couldn’t even sit up or wear pants post-surgery for 4 days.

      I don’t think companies should police work at home leave but I think that we can acknowledge how the option to work from home might eliminate the need to turn my blanket and sweats day into a full sick day.

    10. Mim*

      Totally agree. The baseline number of sick days should be sufficient for everyone to go to all of their annual preventative care appointments, and take off time when they feel too ill to work. And then on top of that, extra time for folks who can’t work remotely, and need to stay out of work because of potential contagion without significant symptoms/illness. And management should be encouraging and modeling use of sick days to create a culture in which everyone feels comfortable using them.

  25. Olivia*

    As someone in the same position as your workers, I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me to know that my manager advocated for that, even if it didn’t end up happening. One thing that is really hard is seeing how so many WFH coworkers are really oblivious about their privilege. Like having people complain to me about having to come back to the office part-time, when I’ve been here every day the whole time. As the OP points out, WFH positions usually have a lot of other flexibility baked in as well, that the non-WFH folks don’t have. There are some more privileged coworkers who definitely make me feel really appreciated, and others who say stuff that is rather insensitive and makes it hard not to feel resentful at times. So really anything the company can do to meaningfully acknowledge that there is a disparity there *and* work towards equity, that is a big deal.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      When you cast people who work from home as “privileged” and not as people who just might be disabled, immune compromised or otherwise have higher risks in office, you come across as clueless, petulant, and obsessed with class warfare.

      It makes me want to take the opposite position from you, just because you are being a jerk about it by calling what for many is a life and death necessity “privilege”.

      — Disabled, high risk, with high risk housemates, tech worker

      1. DisgruntledPelican*

        Privilege is not a bad word. You are not being accused of anything. Think about the fact that not everyone is your same circumstances (disabled and high risk) have the opportunity to work from home and protect themselves the same way you do.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Actually, I do “Think about the fact…”, but not at your behest.

          The way “privilege” is used in this person’s missives is definitely in an accusing, class war tone. You don’t have to always call something “privileged” to acknowledge that it is an improvement over the previous status quo and that more people should be able to do it.

          The privilege shaming feeling I get whenever “remote work” and “privilege” are mentioned together is a bit much. Yes, I get it, some people are green with envy that after 40 years of on-site work I finally have the skill and experience to be able to protect my life and my housemates lives by working from home. I wish more people with disabilities and at-risk housemates could do this, but it’s not a thing I, or anyone else here, control.

          So people need to lay off the guilt trips, which is all this s*** is.

          1. Don't Forget to Mute The Zoom*

            Big yikes. I am sure your coworkers were sad to no longer be able to spend time listening to you turn absolutely anything anyone said into an attack on you. At least your username is on point.

      2. tusemmeu*

        The problem is that jobs that can be done remotely are often much better paid than so many of the blue collar jobs that can’t, so class comes into it and thus so does privilege even when people may not have privilege in other areas. I’m also disabled and chronically ill, so I speak from experience when I agree that the issues you bring up need to be acknowledged too though.

        1. J*

          I took a 50% pay cut to work at home in the pandemic because I’m disabled. I had tried for a decade to work from home but suddenly it was allowed because the normal people had health concerns. I’d really reframe your thoughts around this.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          So 40 years of experience is now a class thing? Oh, please.

          If I was in my 20s again with the lack of experience I had at that age all I would be able to get would be on-site jobs. Disability at that age would have bumped me out of the work force. It nearly did at 33, but I did a very painful and difficult career pivot to get my current skills.

          I worked my ass off to get as far as I have, and to have some commenter dismiss it as mere “privilege” that I should be guilty about frosts my jets.

          1. Anna*

            You’re misunderstanding what privilege means and no one is suggesting you should feel guilty about it. It is a privilege to be in the type of career where you can work from home regardless of how hard you worked for and regardless of other areas where you lack privilege.

  26. Chirpy*

    As someone who works a fully in-person, low paid, customer facing job, YES PLEASE, ABSOLUTELY! I only get 3 sick days a year (and only due to the pandemic, I got none at all until last July). I truly wish we got more, I had to burn all of my vacation time to get a single week off for having covid before that. Meanwhile, I have gotten to hear people from corporate whine about having to wear a mask for an hour when they visit, because they all spent the last few years working safely from home and never got sick.

    Also, consider: why on earth do we not advocate for more sick time for any low wage, in-person work? The person who makes your lunch or cleans your office or interacts directly with your customers should really have the option to stay home without financial penalty when sick!

  27. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    DO IT
    This is one of the best ways I can think of to actually make your employees feel valued and like you do care about their wellbeing.
    The realities of not having enough PTO and an in-person job are real. Our receptionist has been eating her lunch out of my snack basket for two weeks because her daughter got covid and she only had one PTO day left. Which means she had to take 4 days off unpaid, and is now struggling to make ends meet.
    Give people flexibility when you can!

  28. Peanutty*

    I think it’s only fair that in-office employees get more sick time. Having to go to the office is a huge stressor compared to WFH. Another 40 hours of sick time would begin to level the playing field.

  29. Noriko*

    Full time remote and this makes sense to me.

    Hell, I see no reason to stop at sick and think they should straight up give in office workers more vacation days too. When I WFH I can have workers come to my house or dip out for doctor’s appointments without taking a whole day off or even much PTO so that would seem fair to me.

  30. Employed Minion*

    While onboarding at my first ‘real’ job after college, HR explained various benefits which included sick time. Office employees got MORE sick time than the manufacturing employees. I asked why and she said they abuse it. I was shocked and am still mystified today.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oh, ugh. I’ve worked in manufacturing and in an office. Manufacturing employees don’t “abuse” sick time – they are more likely to get sick or injured, thus needing more sick time.

      This is very classist and tone deaf, and maybe even racist if most of the manufacturing employees are PoC and the office folks are mostly white.

  31. Pierrot*

    I’m really glad to see this.
    I worked in person in retail at the mall during the pandemic pre vaccine. The company I worked for was known for being progressive.

    I got sick and my symptoms were basically the same as covid. Low grade fever, sore throat, coughing, the whole nine yards. I took a company provided covid test (which was nice of them) and it was then sent to the lab. In the mean time, I was still sick and could not go to work. I had 2 paid sick days and missed 3 days of work while waiting for the results. On day 3, I get an email from the store manager saying that I had used all of sick days and as a result, for each day I missed going forward I would get a “point” (not a good thing in this context). Those points were also meant for calling out with no notice, and they had notice because I was updating them every day that I was still sick.

    It was things like that that made me pretty bitter. Working in retail, I didn’t have the highest expectations of my job but in a number of ways it was actually a much better place to work than other stores at the mall. The things like getting penalized and having negative sick days for doing what I was supposed to do while all of the decision makers worked from home did hurt morale.

    To use another example, in order to close during a snow day, we had to receive permission from a regional manager (who worked from home). Every other store in the mall would be closed and we would be there waiting for this person to get back to us, hoping we’d be able to get home safely. One time public transit was shut down in my city due to a snow storm so I took an uber to work because we were still open. The uber driver was livid that I was expected to go in. In the words of one of my coworkers, “If I got into a car-crash on the way here due to a snowstorm and died, this company would not care about me.”

    That, in a nutshell, is low morale. It is really heartening to see people who work from home on here realizing the necessity of things like more sick days for in person workers. Those things go along way towards making people feel valued by their employer (and prevents other front line workers from getting sick).

    1. Looper*

      I do agree. When you’re customer-facing, you expect to get some crap at work. But when the disrespect comes from colleagues, often colleagues who WOULD NOT HAVE JOBS AT ALL were it not for the work you do, that’s the worst. The selfishness of coworkers is very tough to let slide.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    I will put out a mention for unlimited vacation which includes sick time as well. It seems infantile to have to count sick days no matter how generous

    1. Mid*

      Unlimited sick leave, yes. Unlimited PTO, no. It’s been shown that unlimited vacation time actually decreased the amount of vacation people took, and is a way for companies to get around laws requiring them to pay out unused PTO when someone leaves the company.

  33. Cari*

    (Gah, I accidentally deleted the first part of this when posting, hope this isn’t redundant)

    I absolutely support this idea, and good on you, LW, for pursuing it, and figuring out how to address possible objections.

    In that spirit, here is a possible objection I can see being raised (but do not agree with) but haven’t seen yet: “ the work from home employees can still work some while they’re at home, but the in person employees can’t do any work if they’re not in. How is that fair to the company/work from home employees since we are telling them that other people don’t have to work as much…”

    I absolutely do not agree that that argument carries or should carry any weight, but I can absolutely see it being made (with a nice side dose of classism), and I think it would be a very good idea to have a well thought out response to it.

    I don’t know what that response is, which troubles me. How might you all respond to it so that it isn’t used to undermine the change?

  34. hellohello*

    The only way I could see this feeling truly unfair is if the in person workers get more time off, but the WFH workers don’t actually have more flexibility in their work. If the office is somewhere that tracks keyboard movement or active status on teams or similar, like the letter writer from a few days ago’s office did – then I could see feeling resentful if I was both trapped at my computer a full eight hours a day AND the people in office were getting bonus sick time.

    Assuming that isn’t the case though, this seems like a great and equitable option.

    1. L-squared*

      Even if they are tracking it, do you still not see the difference in being forced to either come in or take a sick day, and being able to be sick from home working on your computer?

  35. Madeleine Matilda*

    I think that the solution is to increase sick leave for all employees to a sufficient number of days to cover most sick leave needs in a year (15-20 days?), to have sick leave be a separate thing from PTO, and for used sick leave to carry over from year to year. This would benefit not only those working in the office but parents whose children tend to catch most germs and bring them home, those with elder care responsibilities, chronic illness, severe allergies, etc.

    1. Mid*

      For many people, 20 days is not nearly enough sick leave. Especially if you have young kids who can’t be left home alone, you could easily burn through 20 days in half a year.

  36. Stay-at-Homesteader*

    Which many people don’t qualify for, for all kinds of reasons. So still not really universal!

  37. Michelle Smith*

    I appreciate Alison’s suggestion of the Life Happens type days more than the expanded sick leave. Otherwise, I think there is a risk of resentment from the WFH folks who may think you’re sending the message that people who are working from home are expected to work while sick.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I just want to be clear that I don’t see a problem with giving the front-line employees additional benefits to compensate for the difference in their situation. I just worry about the framing potentially upsetting people.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As a remote worker, I’m good with my in-office peers getting the extra sick days, but I’d like one or two of those Life Happens days.

      Yes, I can sit at the keyboard while the basement is flooding, the HVAC is out, or whatever other calamity finds me, but I’m not going to 100% productive and our lives happen, too!

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am the WFH folks and I am 100% in favor of this. In addition to it being fair and equitable, this will also cut down on the number of people coming in sick and spreading the germs to their teammates, customers, and the teammates’ and customers’ families. I had an SO who could not call out sick, and the two years we were together was the two years when I’ve been sick the most in my life; including taking actual sick days because I was too sick to work even from home. He’d constantly catch colds from his colleagues (who were also not allowed to call out sick) and pass them on to me.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      If a workplace has a designated bucket for personal days, I’d love to see on-site workers get a few extra per year.

  38. lilsheba*

    In a word…YES! And I’m not saying your company does this at all but can we please stop punishing people for calling out sick? With a demerit system like we’re in school or something?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Seriously, I don’t get why it’s a thing at school either.

        Both my kids’ graduations, the kids who received awards for their academic or other achievements or were top of the class (our school had the top 10 and their families sit separately on a balcony) and the kids that received the perfect attendance awards… were not the same kids. It’s almost like there’s no academic benefits to forcing the kids to attend school while sick or in pain?

  39. UX Writer*

    Love this idea. Seriously. I wish you could increase the pay since you say the in-person employees are the lowest paid and that seems unfair too, but I know that can be even harder to make happen in practice.

  40. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Yes please.

    I know it was a game changer for me when I was first allowed to WFH when sick/contagious 16 years ago. I had children in middle school at the time, and used to blow through my PTO (and sick time when I had it) between my own and my kids’ illnesses. Suddenly I was back in control of my own PTO and able to take vacations. I completely agree that people who do not have this option, should get more sick time.

  41. WS*

    My work is in healthcare, so fully on-site and in person. Co-workers with kids were using their entire (reasonably generous under normal circumstances) sick leave in the first six months of the year, sometimes sooner. The owner made the decision to continue to pay sick leave to the people who’d used theirs up, to protect other staff and also patients. Two staff members (neither with children at home) made a big stink about how this wasn’t faaaaaair, but being told the alternative was staff members coming to work sick and infecting them quickly stopped the complaints.

  42. Curmudgeon in California*


    As a fully remote worker I completely agree that employees who are required to be on-site should have more sick time allowed. When on-site are sick but come to work they can potentially infect all of their coworkers, or even customers, whereas when I’m sick but still able to work I only have my household to contaminate.

    While working remotely is not a “perk” – we still are working – circumstances around illness are different for remote vs on-site employees. Therefore on-site people, especially those who deal with the public, should have a greater sick leave allowance than remote workers. It’s just practical and fair.

  43. Tesuji*

    Maybe I’m just excessively cynical, but I feel like this has a lot of potential to backfire.

    From the executive point of view, the number of sick days available to the on-site staff is exactly the right number of sick days they should have. That’s how many they’ve always had, and it’s always worked out before. Everything’s back to normal now! There’s no need for them to have any more sick days.

    The fact that WFH employees have greater flexibility? Well, that sounds like you’re saying that WFH employees don’t actually need that many sick days. Nice of you to bring up how they can always just WFH when they or their kids are sick. Sounds like the company should just cut the number of sick days a WFH employee gets, to make sure everything’s fair!

    This is obviously going to vary based on the executive suite, but it feels like this is a “you better be very clear about how the company really feels about WFH before opening your mouth, or you might be opening a can of worms” kind of situation.

    1. Mid*

      You are likely being excessively cynical. No one is saying that sick hours should be cut, only increased for the people who have less flexibility and more exposure to germs.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      A few problems with your cynical argument:
      1) No, everything is NOT back to normal now. A cold was anywhere from 3 to 5 days, covid is a week to 3 weeks. Colds generally don’t kill people, Covid kills people daily.
      2) The idea that “the number of sick days available to the on-site staff is exactly the right number of sick days they should have.” is baloney. Yeah, it might have been “right” previous to the pandemic (it wasn’t actually “right” in most places), but it is definitely not “right” with things like Covid and RSV being nearly endemic. People are getting sicker more often.
      3) The concept of “fair” here is doing some really unsafe heavy lifting here. While some executives may be that clueless, I would hope most weren’t.

      If you look at it from a business perspective, it is actually more cost-effective to have people take sick time when they are sick, especially on-site employees! For starters, if they take off sick they are less likely to spread their illness to coworkers – so by taking off sick for their full illness they are less likely to cause other people to need to take sick leave as well, so it’s a cost savings. Also, when people, both remote and on-site, have sufficient sick leave and take it there are less likely to be mistakes made due to people being drugged up on cough syrup or pain killers. Then there’s all of the fuzzy stuff about being a great place to work because management doesn’t demand that people work sick.

  44. Twix*

    Yes yes yes yes. I have a crippling chronic illness but could never work from home pre-COVID for security reasons, and was constantly being forced to triage my PTO or take unpaid time under FMLA. COVID forced my company to figure out how to do WFH, and as horrible as COVID has been the quality of life difference for me has been immeasurable. After years of struggling to work 30 hours a week on site and being constantly sick and miserable, I essentially overnight became able to work my full 40 no problem and still have energy afterward to do things other than work. For generally healthy people it may not seem like a big deal. For people struggling with all kinds of different health and family issues, it can be life-changing. If a job requires someone to work on-site, it is absolutely fair and reasonable to offer more sick time in recognition of the disparity with WFH.

  45. Misty*

    I didn’t have the immediate positive reaction everyone seems to have. I have loads of sick time but can never seem to take it because of work demands and expectations that WFH staff can work through minor illness. Around appointments. Later. Earlier. Sick is sick.

    I just want to curl up on the couch.

  46. A Genuine Scientician*

    Do. It.

    But, please: do it by adding leave to your in person people, not subtracting leave / flexibility from your remote people.

  47. Rach*

    Having just a few months ago gone from a fully in person role to a fully remote one I couldn’t agree more! The first time I worked with period cramps, or with bad allergies, I realized how absolutely life changing it is to be in the comfort of your own home when you feel bad but aren’t “sick” enough to call in to work. So often I feel bad enough that I don’t want to go out but don’t feel bad enough that I don’t want to work – I don’t need as much sick time. Ironically in my in person job I had zero pto of any kind and that’s why I left.

  48. Manders*

    In April 2020 I was manager of a Covid PCR diagnostic lab for our city – back when it was nearly impossible to get a test and get results within a reasonable amount of time. We offered to test everyone at the local meatpacking plant (regularly, for free) but literally none of the floor employees took us up on the offer. Because finding out that they had Covid would mean a mandatory 2 week non-paid leave, which none of them could afford. It was so sad. Lots of the WFH office employees did want those tests though…

  49. Chriama*

    This is my new favourite phrase “equity is not equality”. I’ve heard it applied to everything from education to social justice and DE&I initiatives.
    This cartoon illustrates the idea perfectly:

    Basically, it’s ok to give different groups of people different resources according to their needs. It’s a much more advanced moral take than championing strict equality whether or not people need or will benefit from it, but it also requires oversight to ensure people aren’t being biased in how they evaluate need in the distribution of resources. For example, paying men or parents more because they have theoretical families to support is a lot different from giving people more sick days because their job function doesn’t offer them the same scheduling flexibility.

  50. nnn*

    This is a fantastic idea, and I’d love to see it become the norm everywhere!

    (And, BTW, I say that as a remote worker who would never qualify for the extra sick days)

  51. Dawn*

    Yeah I have worked from home for over 3 years now and I’ve barely taken a sick day in that time; I take a number of other precautions as well, because I’m vulnerable, but not being exposed to other people at work (and whatever portion of it involves the general public – I had one of the worst colds of my life when a lady came into my store visibly so ill she shouldn’t have been upright and coughed on me) drastically cuts down on how often you’ll get sick.

  52. ijustworkhere*

    Yes yes yes, this is a discussion I’ve been trying to get my employer to have. It seems only fair to offer some additional leave to workers who can’t work remote. I hope this idea will catch on and find champions among the readers of this column.

  53. Not A Girl Boss*

    Just wanted to share that my office does this through offering up to 40 “Absent with Permission” hours per year. This is basically time your boss can give you off at their own discretion. It works out really great for us.

    Technically, the allowance applies equally to all employees. In reality, I used nearly 100% of it when I had an in-person job, and basically none of it when I had jobs that allowed WFH (both at the same company).

    I’ve used it on things like:
    -Going to the DMV
    -Ran out of paid sick time
    -Extending the standard 3-day bereavement to a full week
    -Attending a personal enrichment conference without eating up vacation days
    -A standing PT appointment in the middle of my work day for a few months
    -Boss gave everyone a Friday off as a thank-you for finishing a big project

  54. Ginger*

    My favorite sick policy I had was essentially, “You’re all adults, if you’re sick, don’t come to work. If we suspect you are abusing this policy we have the right to require you to start using vacation for your sick time.” The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it only applied to you, so I still had to use vacation to care for my kiddo and since it was a use it or lose it policy I often left a few days in the bank at the end of the year that were “just in case” days.

  55. Avril Ludgateaux*

    I have a chronic health condition that has become so much more manageable since WFH, that I went through the process of securing a medical accommodation to ensure I can continue to WFH even if my employer rescinds the policy.

    I have used so much less sick time in the years since! Never mind that I don’t get communicably sick as often as I used to, interacting with so many members of the public (my job is not public facing anymore, but it was until a few months before the pandemic began) in a big open-plan communal space with shared bathrooms.

    But there are even further personal advantages that pertain to my chronic condition:

    First, some conditions of commuting and being in the workplace aggravate certain symptoms and limit medications I can use — not the case anymore! Second, because I can control my environment to deal with episodes in ways that don’t materially interfere with productivity, I can continue to work through or around an episode. Third, all of the doctors and practitioners I regularly have to see are within a 15-minute radius of home, while my office is over 40 miles away, which can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes to navigate. That’s during average rush-hour traffic, not accounting for construction or accidents. Now that I don’t have to worry about the distance, it means I can hop over to an appointment in lieu of my one-hour lunch, or first thing in the morning before my work day starts, or in the brief window after work ends but before the doctor’s office closes. In the past, I would have to use sick time in some amount to cover all these appointments.

    Additionally, because (and I do not recommend this and yet still I do it) when I am separately sick with something contagious, provided I am not completely bed-ridden, hospitalized, or otherwise completely indisposed (at which point I would use a sick day), I can continue to work from the privacy and isolation of my home and not worry about exposing anybody else.

    My worst year (so far), I used 11 sick days. Meanwhile, since early 2020, I have not even used that many sick days, cumulatively.

    All of this to say, I 100% agree that WFH lifts much of the practical burden of being sick from employees, and people who don’t have the privilege to work remotely *absolutely* should be given more of it. In the US at least, where there is no mandated paid sick leave, everybody should have more paid sick leave, period, but especially so if their job requires them to be on site, where they are more likely to pick up and spread disease and/or get injured. Personally I would not even feel any kind of way if the in-office workers had a few more personal or vacation days, too. Working remotely frees up a lot of my time (from not commuting and finding quick buffers of downtime between tasks) to take care of the house and get chores and miscellaneous responsibilities done, so I do not have to devote an entire day of every weekend to taking care of business. It makes a huge difference in mental health and quality of life.

  56. MapleHill*

    As someone who CAN now work from home when I’m sick, I would be all for this for colleagues who cannot work at home! As Alison said, it benefits colleagues who can work remotely as well because it at least somewhat resolves the perception of fairness and resentment on-site workers might feel, which can help maintain the WFH benefit because it doesn’t cause conflict.

    I’m sure there will be people who can WFH that complain, but I think explaining the reasoning up front will ease that for most (some people can never be made happy).

  57. cncx*

    I live in a European country so a PTO sick bank doesn’t exist here- vacation is it’s own bank, sick days are unlimited up to a certain point depending on tenure, etc.

    My last two jobs were mandatory office jobs, and the first one was awesome about giving me more flexibility in exchange for my health. I worked shorter hours on average once the original Covid wfh scramble was over, and people were really careful about coming in if I was in- sitting on another floor, etc. I did the mail, i met all the repair people, I helped a lot of people wfh better and got a lot of positive and grateful feedback.

    My most recent job, people with very home office amenable jobs (think developers) would come in Covid positive , not asked by their boss but of their own volition, because « they only had the sniffles » and « the government says we can come in if we’re not symptomatic » instead of, you know, staying home so I (bad kidneys, old) don’t get sick. People who were Covid negative but had some kind of rhinovirus rsv crud would come in because it wasn’t Covid, and management was not pushing this, it was all personal choice. I know this because my boss was the only one weird about butt in chair. I found it was annoying and disrespectful, like it’s cute that you’re 25 and healthy and it’s just a cold, but im pushing 50 and not healthy and I who has to be here don’t need you breathing on me just because you feel better two days out of testing positive. I’m glad I left that place.

    All that to say, since PTO isn’t used for sick time here, I would be happy with a deal like the first place- in exchange for doing the mail and meeting maintenance ppl, there were several months where I had six and seven hour workdays instead of eight, got a lot of free food and got a lot of just basic respect and gratitude for taking it for the team. If I lived in a country with PTO banks for illness and coworkers like job two, I think I would be happy with 5-10 extra days. I missed five when home office dude came in with the crud (whyyyy) at last job.

  58. Here we go again*

    Yes more PTO for unexpected things if you work in person! Not crazy but like 3-5 extra days a year. You can even base it off of time on site. Earn an extra 15 minutes of pto for every day worked on site. Fair to part timers and hybrid workers.

  59. please get me out of here*

    Can I swap my own manager for LW? Cause this is my exact situation, a more blue-collar part of the operation that’s 100% on site while the rest of the company is hybrid/remote. To add insult to injury, not only are we underpaid compared to everyone else, we don’t accrue PTO at all. Everyone starts with 16 days per year and gets 1 additional every year (which isn’t all that great to begin with) but we just get 16 forever and that’s it. We are truly the bottom rung of the totem pole, and my boss has never done a single thing to make us feel more appreciated and respected.

  60. DJ*

    Someone I know whose job can’t be done from home says that employer provided parking would be helpful. Means no mucking around with trying to find a park when arriving at work. Perhaps employers could consider this as well.

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