6 tips to handle a sick day at the office

Sometimes, no matter how bad you feel, you have to head to the office anyway. Here's how to handle it.

With the start of cold and flu season, it's inevitable that you'll need to take some sick time. But some days, no matter how bad you feel, you just can't stay home -- deadlines, client meetings, software releases just won't wait. Of course, some folks actually want to work through minor illnesses because of their commitment to their job, or a lack of sick time, or because they feel guilty having co-workers pick up their slack.

"There are a surprising number of people who don't want to stay home and nurse a cold or a sore throat. They'd rather work through the sniffles or pounding head, and while that's commendable, it can be difficult to work at your usual level of efficiency -- and that can be worse than being missing in action at the office," says Amanda Mitchell, corporate consultant and founder of executive coaching and management consultancy Our Corporate Life.

Here are Mitchell's tips for handling a sick day at the office.

1. Layer up

Dress in layers in case you start to feel hot or cold, or fluctuate between the two, Mitchell says. "Working through a sick day while wearing those new sky-high heels or a swanky business suit is not a great idea. Dress professionally, yes, but also be sure to wear something that will keep you comfortable," she says.

2. Medicate

If you have to medicate your symptoms at the office, make sure you use products that don't make you drowsy, Mitchell says. "Whether it's a sore throat, a cough or the common cold, avoid any products designed to help you sleep through the illness as well as any that contain alcohol," she says. There are plenty of over-the-counter options specifically designed for daytime relief.

[ Related story: 10 things that tick off software developers ]

3. Keep it to yourself

If you make the decision to go to work despite being ill, don't whine or complain about how crappy you feel -- it'll only make you (and everyone else around you) feel worse, Mitchell says. Not only that, they'll worry you're contagious.

"Do your co-workers want to hear about your pounding head or runny nose? Nope. Keep a positive attitude and try to focus on what you're doing, not how you're feeling," she says.

4. Hydrate

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, Mitchell says; it'll help keep your head clear and you'll cope better with your symptoms. Hot soup and tea are great options, as well as plenty of water, she says.

5. Take it easy

If you must go into the office while sick, try to make the day as easy as possible on yourself, Mitchell says. "Focus your time on necessary, but not urgent, work like administration, logistics planning or relationship building. You could even take this time to update your career achievements and accomplishments, or your LinkedIn profile," says Mitchell. If you have major proposals or presentations due, try to reschedule them -- you'll be much more effective and efficient when you feel better.

[ Related story: Tips for keeping Generation Z and millennial workers happy ]

6. Know when enough is enough

Of course, if you find your symptoms getting worse, or that you're not as effective as you'd like to be, then call it a day (and maybe call your doctor). Sometimes, there's no other option than to curl up in your pajamas on the couch with a box of tissues, Netflix and hot tea until you get better.

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