By Austin Andrukaitis, CEO of ChamberofCommerce.com and digital marketing strategist with more than 15 years of experience in creating online campaigns.
Working for yourself can provide much more autonomy over your schedule and workload than working for an employer. Rather than sticking to a strict 9-to-5 workday, you can capitalize on times you’re most productive, factor in personal obligations and embrace flexibility.
However, despite the ability to create your own hours, you also face the challenge of balancing your professional and personal lives—especially when it comes to taking sick days. While you may be tempted to work while sick, doing so could hinder your healing and force you to take even more time off.
With that in mind, here are seven tips I have found to be helpful for taking sick days as an entrepreneur.
1. Make it a ‘light’ day.
If you’re not severely ill and requiring hours of rest, then rather than taking a full day off, schedule a “light” day instead. Cancel all calls or meetings with clients and staff, work from the comfort of your own home and focus on tasks that don’t require as much careful attention or creativity.
If that still feels too draining, consider listening to business podcasts, reading a career development book or watching educational videos to help keep your mind sharp while resting. Additionally, take note of any important projects you’re missing, upcoming deadlines you might need to shift and priorities that will require your immediate attention once you’re back.
2. Delegate responsibilities to your team.
As a business owner, you likely have a team of employees or contractors to rely on when you’re unable to work. Ideally, you will already have a plan in place and go-to employees who are willing to step up in these instances. Talk to your team and see whether any trusted workers are able to cover some of the work while you’re away. You can even offer incentives like a bonus, free lunch or extra paid time off (PTO) when you return.
Also, consider training your employees in some of your management tasks or client communications ahead of time so you won’t have to scramble for coverage at the last minute when sick. Regardless of whether you’re taking a sick day, it’s a good practice to train staff in these areas.
3. Prepare for sick days ahead of time.
Prepare for potential sick days like you would for a vacation. While you might not be able to predict exactly when you’ll get sick, having a plan in place might ease your anxieties about it. For example, set aside extra money each month so you can cover lost income when you’re bedridden, or identify key team players you can rely on when you’re absent.
Another tip is to avoid leaving anything to the last minute. You never know what can happen in life, so take advantage of the times you’re most energized, motivated and at your healthiest. That way, you won’t spend your sick days feeling guilty or worrying about missing important deadlines. Instead, you can focus on healing and resting.
4. Prioritize the right clients.
As an entrepreneur, your most important client is yourself. If you’re feeling unwell, your performance will reflect that. While it might feel strange to rank clients and projects based on importance, be honest with yourself about which are worth your time and which you can let down or put to the side when sick. For example, you might want to prioritize a higher-paying, loyal client who is on top of payments over a client who consistently makes late payments or underpays you in comparison to others.
This doesn’t mean leaving any client out to dry—just communicate your situation and availability appropriately. The right clients will understand your situation and want you to get better. If you face resistance when being transparent about your health and inability to work—especially if you have provided solutions or stand-ins for when you’re away—consider whether that particular client is worth the investment in the long run.
5. Keep your clients and employees updated.
Odds are, your employees and clients will understand if you need to take a few days off, push back a deadline or cancel a call. However, without communication, you’ll put your business in a tough spot. Unless you’re too sick to even send an email from your phone, reach out to each impacted party and inform them of when you believe you will be back at work.
Be as open as possible so no one is left in the dark regarding your availability. Set up away messages for emails, direct urgent communications to the appropriate contacts and check in as frequently as is feasible when you’re feeling up to it.
6. Work longer hours when you return.
While it’s not ideal to “make up” your sick days, as a business owner and your own boss, you often don’t get the luxury of paid time off. When you’re recovered and ready to work again, consider getting up a bit earlier or working a bit later into the evening than you typically would to catch up on projects or tasks.
Additionally, if you missed any client calls while sick, reschedule rather than cancel them altogether. This demonstrates you value the client’s time and energy and that you’re ready to show up as soon as you’re well again.
7. Allow yourself to rest.
Sometimes, resting is the most productive thing you can do—especially when you’re sick. Rather than viewing rest as a waste of time away from work, view it as a necessary priority that will benefit your business and clients (because it is!)
The more you push yourself when you’re already unwell, the worse you will feel and the longer it will take you to recover. Listen to your body and rest when necessary so you can return to work energized and healthy. During your recovery, even once you’re back to your normal schedule or trying to play catch-up, get at least eight hours of rest each night and take breaks throughout the day as needed.
Without your health, you have nothing—so take care of yourself first.