One of the best aspects of working for the bureaucracy is that we earn four hours of sick leave every two weeks. With 26 pay periods a year that adds up to 104 hours of sick time earned. The hours that you don’t use by the end of the year roll over into a reserve pot you can draw on in the future. It’s a good system and a cheap insurance policy against future illness. I’ve got something like 600 hours of sick leave on the books now, which is a pretty good indication that I’m not using the time to go shopping or head to the beach. Then again, when I’m not feeling up to par, I have no issue with dipping into those hours and keeping my ass at home until I feel better. Even then, it’s unusual for me to need more than one or two days in a row. But when I do, I’m going to take it without feeling guilty.
I’ve spent half my career banking a shit ton of leave and then when the flu kicks my ass, I’m going to use as much of it as I need to. I’m not going to come in until I feel something close to human again. That’s just the way it’s going to be. When I get back, I’m happy to pick up wherever I left off and get my projects back on track. What I’m not going to do is come back and start staying late to “make up” for being out. I made up for being out by burning off some of those accumulated hours of sick leave. Those are hours you’re not going to have to pay me for a decade or two in the future when I decide to punch out for the last time. I’m happy to stick around and work as late as anyone wants, but I won’t be doing it for free. There’s always going to be more work that needs done and some of it wouldn’t have gotten done even if I had been in the office. I don’t feel bad about that during any normal week and I definitely won’t feel bad about it when I’ve spent a week flat on my back.
If we need to work longer to get something done, feel free to cross my palm with silver or add back a few hours into my leave account. Trying to guilt me into giving it away just isn’t going to be something that works for either of us.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.