Let’s make the sick day a noun again
July 3, 2019 by Erin McCaul
For someone who generally dislikes sitting still, recovery has always been an active verb. I run, climb, hike, ski, and bike, and recovering has meant yoga and foam rolling, pulling garden weeds, or walking my dog. The idea that recovery could also be a noun that describes just resting didn’t dawn on me until I read Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden. She roped me in with her study on whether or not beer aids recovery after running, and blew my mind with her revelation that recovery used to be a noun, but has evolved into a verb—and not always for the better.
My son is almost 2 years old and goes to daycare full time. As a household it feels like we’re sick every single week. While my son bounces back from everything within 24–48 hours, his toddler super germs lay siege on my white blood cells for weeks at a time. I used to think that I could will myself healthy with Emergen-C, Throat Coat tea, and strong coffee. Just another active-verb type of recovery to fit into my busy life.
The partners at 2A recently reminded us all that WFH (work from home) days shouldn’t replace sick days. Thinking back on it, I realized it had been six years since I’d taken a real sick day—a genuine, stay-in-my-jammies, watch-bad-TV, nap, camp-on-the-couch sick day. Instead, I would push through it, trading rest for dialing into meetings, working on projects, and responding to messages. I convinced myself these days were restful because I wasn’t in the office. But nowadays, I’m not so sure about that.
Besieged by the latest round of toddler germs, I decided to try something radical. With the support of my manager and team I took an actual sick day. I spent the day napping, eating soup, and sipping tea. I generally stayed offline and truly rested. And you know what? It worked. I got better, faster. I felt sharper at work and was a more present mom and partner at home.
One of our words we work by is “great work requires being well,” and that sentiment has empowered me and the rest of my team to take real sick days. While my recovery as an athlete remains an active verb, I’m happy to report my sick days are officially nouns again, and that is helping me stay active.