Me and My Pretty Black Lung at Work

Posted by: | August 18, 2010

I have to put out a public apology to my colleagues for hacking out my lungs at the office. It’s not a pretty sound and I know it’s been driving them a little nuts.  There’s something going around right now and I got it as a gift from my best friend and my Mom for my birthday it seems. It’s some kind of bronchitis or something…

So I wanted to bring this up because I am at work and I’m not exactly well.  I already took a few days off work last week. I managed to feel good enough to do a bit of outdoorsy stuff on the weekend, and I’ve been eating well and resting lots, but nothing’s getting rid of what I’m fondly calling “my black lung.”

I came to work today really only because I had a presentation to do about the Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program Fund (HWIP).  I know I enjoy the irony of presenting about health while sick.

But the point of me whining about being sick is to talk about the ethics of coming to work while being sick.  I know I encourage my colleagues to take sick time if they’re sick, especially early on in their illness (when they’re more contagious, and when they’re more likely to end up getting *less* sick if they rest early).  But after a bit, I’ve not been sick enough to stay at home and I have so much to do that I want to deal with it rather than being more stressed later.  So I am here, hacking away with a bit of a cracking voice, plugging away on my work.  Plus, today’s presentation felt as though it had to happen- 30 people were registered and there’s no one else who could run it…

I’ve had some folks tell me that I should be at home. Part of me agrees. But another part of me says it’s fine to be here.

What do you think? How do you make the decision to stay at home or come to work?

Filed under: Suzanne Jolly | Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “Me and My Pretty Black Lung at Work”

  1. jolene says:

    Speaking as one of those colleagues who is able to enjoy your black lung from the next cubicle, I’d say finding out what your black lung might actually be diagnosed as by a doctor might help determine whether you should be working from home or resting at home or if you’re well enough to come into the office.

    Also, speaking as someone who came to work 3 days into strep throat, and was told by everyone to go home, i can’t really judge your choices either.

    I do think there’s some rule about whether you’re well enough to exercise if the symptoms are only below the neck. so if it’s just the coughing and no head foggy-ness or nausea then i think it’s alright. as long as you’re not coughing up black lung bits onto your colleagues…

  2. erin king says:

    Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all really struggled with this one. How do you juggle the amount of stuff you have to do at work with taking care of yourself when you’re sick? Personally, I always make a point of staying home when I don’t feel well. If I’m well enough to do work, I can do it from home. That way I’m still getting some rest (doing work in your pjs at home takes far less energy than behind your desk at work), getting the really time-sensitive work stuff done and not spreading germs.

    But I feel your pain about having to be here for a presentation! In that situation, I’d probably come in just for the presentation and then hightail it back home again. 🙂

  3. Jen says:

    I used to come to school/work when I had a cold and just push through it but since I moved to Vancouver (or aged 😉 I’ve found that my symptoms are much worse and I usually need to take at least 1-2 days off at the beginning. However my research is very time sensitive and we can’t work overtime to make up for lost time so it becomes very stressful when I have to miss even a day or two because I know that it can throw off my work. However I’ve learned over time that it is worth missing a day or two if it means getting over the sickness a lot faster and to ask for help from others so that I dont’ fall too far behind and then just return the favor when needed. Its definitely more complicated when you have commitments (presentations, teaching, workshops) that are dependent on you.. in that case I usually do what Erin mentioned and just come in for waht you need to do and then get home to rest!
    Its hard to take time off to rest without getting stressed out that you are falling behind, but personally I’d rather just take the time and not be sick for weeks on end so I can get back to all the things I enjoy!

  4. sjolly says:

    I definitely believe you should take time off at the beginning of an illness, like Jen said. That is definitely shown to be more effective in being able to get over whatever illness you catch (I’m talking general viruses here), and also trying to keep it from spreading (earlier in the illness= more contagious).
    But it’s hard when something lingers. I’m bouncing between feeling good for a few hours, to feeling absolutely horrible. So Erin- yes, I agree about working from home when you can, and in retrospect, I definitely think I should have headed home right after my presentation. But it’s funny how sometimes you debate about what’s better for your health: going home to bed and being stressed about how much work you have to do when you get back, or simply pushing through.
    With that being said, Jolene, I’ve gotten a nice diagnosis (yay for bronchitis- a virus that they can’t really give me anything for!), and I took Friday off to get a little more extensive rest to help my immune system kick in.

    But I’m still coughing my lungs out, and sometimes we have to accept that it’s part of the process. At least today I’m telecommuting- you don’t have to listen to me today Jolene! 🙂

UBC a place of mind

Food of the Month

Oranges Every month, the Healthy UBC Blog highlights a locally available food, and gives you a recipe or two to try out.  This month, read all about mandarin oranges, rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre and folate.

>> Food of the Month page.


Nothing on the Healthy UBC Blog should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a medical opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of medicine. Opinions offered in the blog are those of individuals and are not the official voice for any department at UBC.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Healthy UBC / Health Promotion Programs
Department of Health, Safety and Environment
University of British Columbia,
50-2075 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1
Tel 604-822-8762
Fax 604-822-0572

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | ©2009 University of British Columbia

Spam prevention powered by Akismet