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Presenteeism schmesenteeism

Back in November, my fellow blogger Cara wrote about how young lawyers tackle the decision of going to work when they are knocked over with a cold or the flu.

She, like many of us, showed up to work due to the guilt and stress of leaving work on your desk or placing the burden on someone else in the office to pick up your slack. At the same time, I cannot count the number of times a co-worker has shown up to the office sick and BAM, I was sick just a few days later.

I, myself, fell victim to the flu last week and, for the first time since starting my job in November 2009, had to spend an entire week home sick. Despite the raging fever and having only the ability to either sleep or shuffle slowly from the sofa to my bedroom, the guilt from not being in the office invaded my dreams and turned them into nightmares. (Tossing and turning from nightmares of being fired is not a great way to try and recover from the flu.)

My office does not assign a set number of sick days, personal days or vacation days. They are granted through the discretion of our supervisors and our own judgment based on our hours. While the policy’s flexibility sounds great, it is simultaneously maddening because, as a junior associate, you frequently do not know what to do. I find myself stuck in an involuntary competition with other junior associates as to how few days I am away from the office.

What are your thoughts? Does your office provide you with a set number of sick days, personal days and vacation days? If so, how do they distinguish between the types of “days off” and how many are you allotted? Do you subscribe to the philosophy of “presenteeism,” or do you shield your co-workers from your germs by staying at home? With the advent of teleworking and technology, shouldn’t people just work remotely to protect their peers?