31/08/2017 2:07 PM AEST | Updated 31/08/2017 2:24 PM AEST

We Should All Call In Sick A Little More Often

Spread the word. Not the illness.

Zachary Scott

There's a raging flu epidemic in Queensland at the moment and it's playing havoc in homes and workplaces. If you are a solo parent and a small business owner with staff depending on you, you are just not allowed to be ill. So what happens if you catch the flu?

Recently, my 10-year-old son got the flu from this thing in Brisbane called the EKKA, a sort of town meets country show which locals regard as a cesspit of germs sure to spread whatever bug is doing the rounds now.

I am a self-employed business owner with employees relying on me. I had clients booked that day and I can't just call in sick. I called my Mum and asked if I could drop off my son. Both parents' immune systems are compromised by health issues, but they had a suitable room, food and he had his tablet and Wi-Fi, which your average 10 year old would happily trade for a day off school.

That night, things deteriorated significantly. His temperature over the course of the night got up to 39.3. All of the home doctors were fully booked and unable to visit. Fortunately, my son was peacefully asleep so we decided to dodge a visit to the children's hospital and an all-night session in a waiting room.

When we saw our GP the next day he prescribed over the counter medication for my son, lots of fluids, Powerade (Master 10 year old was absolutely over the moon at the free pass on that) and carbs.

He also gave me a prescription for Tamiflu. I know it is in short supply and so does he. But he gave it to me for three reasons, knowing I am a self-employed single parent: One, if I don't work, I can't support my son; Two, our doctor is also the doctor for my parents, he knows that they are immune compromised and that I don't have childcare support; Three, I have employees. If I'm unable to work then I'm unable to provide an income source for them.

I felt guilty at first, but now I don't feel bad about it at all. I have a son relying on me. I have employees relying on me.

I had two weeks of enduring the flu myself a few weeks ago. However, it was very clear to me that the strain that my son had was well beyond that. If I get the level of flu that he has, then I will be not functional and will be unable to work. If I am unable to work then I cannot give work to my staff and that threatens their livelihood.

Why are we forcing people to come to work every day to sit in concrete or glass boxes and share germs? In an online, cloud-based age, it just doesn't make sense.

Here's a serious thought, the sick leave expectations in this country are ridiculous. When I worked for an employer, people would come into work sick because they felt they would be criticised if they stayed at home. I make it clear to people now that you must not bring germs into our workplace.

Almost all of our team have children. All of us, without exception, have had this flu go through our families in the past few weeks. Not colds -- full blown industrial strength flu. And unfortunately, it's not just one strain of flu. So, the flu that I had five weeks ago may not the same flu that's presenting now.

None of us can justify bringing that kind of illness into the workplace when we have staff members with young children and babies under 12 months old. Many of our clients also have children. Can we risk passing it on to them?

However, there are alternatives. We have a workplace where our staff predominantly work from home, unless we are meeting clients or attending mediation or court. If people are unwell, they can work from home, work at their own pace and determine their own health needs.

There's quite a difference between getting up and doing a couple of hours work in your pyjamas and having a bit of a rest as opposed to enduring public transport fully suited up, dosed up on cold medicine and having to put in a whole day's work while sharing your germs with those around you.


How to Keep Your Career Healthy When Your Kids Are Constantly Sick

I have noticed among my staff a trend of not wanting to take sick days because they don't feel they're sick enough. Silly. If you're sick, you're sick. Sure, if there is a deadline, then we need to find a way to meet that and sometimes you push through. However, if you are sick and you're not performing at optimum, there is nothing brave or heroic about pushing through.

I think it's high time that Australian workplaces adopt more friendly practices of allowing staff to work from home, particularly when they have family members who are sick and during flu season.

Imagine if everyone worked from home during flu season. I know, it's not going to be possible in face-to-face occupations like hospitality and retail. For those occupations, cutting parents who have no viable option a bit of slack around their sick leave might prevent them from coming to work and spreading germs.

Why are we forcing people to come to work every day to sit in concrete or glass boxes and share germs? In an online, cloud-based age, it just doesn't make sense.

My business is completely cloud based and I'm proud of it. I've told my staff that if they wish to sit on a beach in Bali, provided they are servicing their clients and able to get their work done, I really don't care where they are, so long as everyone is happy.

Maybe it's time for us all to head to Bali next July, before flu season hits, and certainly while that flu-generating EKKA show is on.