How Sick Is Too Sick To Work?

A couple of months ago, I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers sharing her philosophy about not working when she’s sick. The main point of the post was the importance of having some cash stashed to cover vacation and sick days. What struck me most was her hard-core stance on cancelling her appointments even if she’s a little sick to protect the health of her clients. As luck (?) would have it, I got the chance to play with this myself when I became sick last week. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

I had just returned from a few days out of town. I had already taken four days off, including a weekend which can be my busiest days (I work Saturdays and Sundays, and take Tuesdays and Wednesdays off). The day after I arrived home, I felt a little stuffy. This happens often enough and goes away after a couple of days using a saline sinus rinse in addition to taking Emergen-C and a decongestant. That was Wednesday, and the congestion continued through Saturday. That’s when the coughing started.

My sick policy states, “If I have cold symptoms but feel well enough to work, I’ll call you to ask if you want to keep your appointment.” I hadn’t contacted the clients I saw the days I was congested but felt compelled to let those coming on Sunday know I definitely had a cold. Note that I felt pretty good overall, so I had a hard time justifying not working if clients wanted to come in. I texted my Sunday clients, saying I had been congested for a few days and had just developed a cough. All of them wanted to keep their appointments unless I felt worse the next day. I didn’t, so I worked a full day.

I still felt okay Sunday evening and my symptoms were about the same, so I notified my Monday clients. They all opted to keep their appointments unless I felt worse. By the end of Monday, my voice was going and by Tuesday morning, it was gone. Literally. I had laryngitis.

I went online to find out more about laryngitis and learned that it is commonly the result of a virus. This made sense considering my symptoms the last few days. Laryngitis itself isn’t contagious (although it’s super inconvenient), and the recommended treatment was OTC pain reliever (to reduce inflammation) and resting my voice. I have a long-time client I see at her home once a week. I texted her to see if she wanted me to come over in spite of my symptoms (I still felt fine). She said she thought she might be getting sick, so she cancelled.

I’d only had one cancellation out of nine clients who had been given the option. But I started wondering if I should have let the clients I saw the first three days of being congested know before they showed up for their massages. I texted most of them (two were out of the country), telling them I had acquired a cough and laryngitis since their visit and asked them to let me know if they came down with similar symptoms. Only one of them said she may have caught my illness and told me I didn’t need to apologize, “#%@* happens”.

So what is the best policy? According to, typical contagious periods for colds and flu are from one day before symptoms appear to up to two weeks. That’s a lot of massage clients missing out on something that helps them enough to risk getting sick. It’s also a long time for me to take time off if I’m feeling well enough to work (trust me, I’d cancel in a heartbeat if I felt like I should).

I feel good about continuing to let clients know what symptoms I have so they can make an informed decision but I’ll start earlier next time. I’m continuing to do so as my symptoms linger. I’ll also follow up with those I haven’t yet in case I need to re-examine my policy. For now, I’m not changing anything. Clients can decide for themselves if they’re comfortable being in a small room with me for an extended period of time. Allowing clients to choose what’s best for them is how I roll in the practice that I love!

What’s your policy regarding treating clients when you’re sick? If you don’t see a comment box, click the Leave a comment link to share. Thank you!

About deepheeling

I'm an ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage specialist dedicated to sharing my journey to creating a successful business that I love!
This entry was posted in Business Practices, Client Experience, Communication, Policies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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