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The perfect storm: An ethical defense of sick day “abuse”

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The stars were beginning to align. The upcoming weather forecast indicated a “winter storm warning” was in effect, and parallel to this meteorological phenomenon, the situation at my workplace was arranging itself perfectly for a day of absence. I can’t discuss the exact details, suffice to say that it was evident that my presence at work would not be missed much that day: the perfect storm.

Over the course of several years in the work-day world full of human drama and endless tasks, I have found myself disturbed on more than one occasion by the intense frustration level of my colleagues that sometimes boils over into red-faced, blood pressure raising anger—the kind of emotional state that most competent health professionals would say needs to be “released.”

The antidote doesn’t concern expensive, zombifying pharmaceutical drugs designed to assuage one’s intense levels of anxiety, depression or anger, or spending more time on a treadmill during your “lunch hour.” That kind of stress requires a day of immersion in the sublime—however one finds it.

What is occasionally required is a carefully calculated bucking of the whole system, which can easily be accomplished by taking a “sick day.”

The situation I’m describing is a paradox: an employee takes a sick day when she is healthy in order to stay that way, so that she may be fortified against colds, flus, and mental and emotional neurosis of all kinds.

It’s time to view sick days as pre-emptive opportunities to assist us in not getting sick in the first place. As anyone with a little contemporary medical knowledge knows, our physical health is directly linked to our mental and emotional health and vice-versa. Therefore, in the way of fostering a happy, healthy, productive, creative—and safe—employee, the proper care and feeding of his physical, mental, and emotional health is critical.

Such salubrious care is not accomplished by mandating that workers sit through a “healthy habits” lecture put on by the employer’s health insurance company. Contrary to that notion, a responsible employer will allow employees the occasional use of one of their allotted sick days to prevent sickness as well as to cure with it.

Living here in the Rocky Mountain West, there are a plethora of means by which an employee may go about the healing process: a good long hike or run through the mountains, a day of skiing or riding fresh powder, a trail ride aboard a favorite steed, shooting some pictures of wildlife, a day of fishing the hatch or of hunting elk in the rut—all are appropriate forms of “self-medicating.”

With this ethical argument in mind, I made my final arrangements at work and then plotted with a self-employed friend of mine to make my escape. We would be travelling to where the powder was deep and no one knew our names. We would fabricate mysterious identities, ski hard, and make no Facebook posts about the experience. A day later, we would show up for work happy and rejuvenated—healthy, productive employees fortified against pestilence of all kinds.

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