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My family and I all caught covid in February. I am a middle-aged grad student, with a GTAship. I could have easily moved my classes online, and attended my classes online, but at the last minute, I just cancelled everything. I sent an announcement to my students first, then emailed my professors and then finally, about three days in, remembered to tell my department chair. I think it kind of rattled them, because I did everything in the 'wrong' order, but it was the way that made the most sense to me at the time. I also, because I come from union folks, copied my union president on the emails I sent to the dept chair. I didn't think too much about the positions I was taking, but reflecting on them, I feel like they were even more proper than I initially considered. Like I said, I'm considerably older than most of my peers (even some of my professors) and this has really kind of shifted the power dynamics I see in my interactions in my department. I realized that this is a good moment to get more involved in my union because the kind of life experience and perspective I bring from a working-class background, to a middle-class situation, gives my colleagues and myself a particular advantage when faced with adversarial situations like taking time off for having covid. The university is at least as exploitative as any factory, and in many cases more so. I could go on and on about this, but I'll cut it short here, and remind everyone that "without our strength and muscle, not a single wheel can turn" in the immortal lyrics of "Solidarity Forever." GET YOUR REST WHEN YOU NEED IT! THAT JOB WILL NEVER LOVE YOU BACK!
So I fall into this category, though I had Covid in March 2020 complete with pneumonia and long Covid, but when I tested positive 3 weeks ago I unapologetically took 4 days off. I would have taken 5 but I tested positive on a Monday afternoon. My feeling is that BECAUSE of how awful the last 2 years have been and because I work from home, the last thing I want to do is give the impression I am working when I am functionally incapable of being productive. It serves absolutely no one, least of all me. I work for a hospital and after working through furlough weeks out of necessity in 2020, I have zero desire to go above and beyond when I know it only sets unsustainable expectations and will go unrewarded.
Thank you for this! I was definitely raised in a culture of fear of losing your job and the best way to keep it was to be as accommodating as possible. My beloved mother, who was a unionized factory worker in Ohio, would always ask me “your’e not going to get in trouble at work?” when I would come home to be with her as she was undergoing chemo treatments or getting surgeries. (She actually worked in between treatments for breast cancer.) It can be a hard mindset to shake. Of course I want to do good work and keep my job. I love my job, thankfully! But also, work is not life, no matter how much I love my job—an idea I’m embracing more and more fully as I get older—and I will take the time I’ve earned. I will set up boundaries around my non-working time, because it is becoming more and more sacred to me.
I have been living with long covid since December 2021. I got it working as a bartender and have not been able to work since. I am extraordinarily lucky that my partner has supported me by paying for 100% of our rent and groceries. I'm also lucky to have learned from other long haulers how important rest is, but it still took me a long time for that lesson to set in. I was also chastised by my doctor because I thought a 20-minute walk was good for me. It was not. I had to walk for no more than 5 minutes. I'm back to feeling like myself, but this experience has convinced me that there is nothing "grittier" or harder to do than prioritize radical rest in our hustle culture. We really need a massive structural overhaul, like guaranteed basic income, so we can value our health over profits.
When my husband and I got the opportunity to move to Europe during the pandemic, we took it. It was scary, jarring, lonely and yet we had a goal in mind. People seemed to trust science. Masks were less political. And people had PTO and more social systems in place.
Fast forward to 2022. In a professional situation, two of three people got COVID. One of them was pregnant. The other proudly worked through her tune, saying they didn't regret it and the work function they got it at was "Worth it." Two months later, my contract was mysteriously ended and one of the remarks was I didn't seen to go into our shared workspace as much as others. Well, our shared workspace reported cases of COVID at least every other week, and I really didn't - need - to go in.
It's not just Americans that are being stupid about long term decisions. Even worse, it's people around the world "playing" Americans.
Even with paid time off, it’s still a trade off, especially for parents. My PTO is all one bucket. It’s generous, but not unlimited. So it’s a question of “do I take time now, when I feel mostly ok, or do I take it in 5 months so I have paid maternity leave? Or do I take it at Christmas so I have time off at the holidays? Or do I save it for when my kid inevitably gets sick?” It also feels weird to take time for what felt, for my family, like a couple of bad allergy days (we all caught much worse colds about a month later, and I did take a day then). So it’s not just work ethic, it’s prioritization.
I somehow remember thinking that after the pandemic people would be more conscientious about not coming into the office when they were sick but that has not panned out at all from what I’ve heard. Last week I heard that most of our office was out with Covid (I was remote before the pandemic and I am still remote).￼￼ but then I remember that our company only gives two weeks of PTO to most of our employees and I suspect that people are thinking gosh I’d really like to take an actual vacation at some point. I remember when I first start in the workforce and you got two weeks of vacation and two weeks of sick time at a minimum. Our whole overwork culture just needs to go. ￼￼
Echoing the previous comments of timeliness: my 6-yo and I both tested positive on Tuesday and have been isolating at home since then. (Spouse has avoided it, likely due to combo of isolating out of our house and lingering antibodies from their February bout.) We HAD planned on vacationing over the end of last week, so while there were switches to be made, I didn't have to cancel any work meetings.
However, tomorrow is Monday and I was facing the "Welp, guess I'll just go to work, I'm 100% remote anyway (and have been since pre-pandemic)" but this made me pause, reassess, and bop in to update my calendar that I'll be out tomorrow. Thanks. <3
Thank you for this! I’m an NTT college professor, so in a weird position where we actually kind of *don’t* have sick leave (short of taking a longer-term leave of absence), because the expectation is that you’ll find someone to cover for you if you can’t teach, and that you’ll teach sick if you’re not THAT sick. (I have taught with serious cases of bronchitis and pneumonia multiple times; when I taught online in ‘20-21, it was the first year ever I’d taught without being sick, though the glory of that was kind of cancelled out by it being the first time I taught while also managing a neurodivergent 3rd grader’s remote schooling.)
This expectation got even worse once the university realized, after a year of pandemic teaching, that we had the ability to teach remotely; when they were trying to bring us back in person in January during the omicron wave, a message went out from our provost in which, under the heading of “self-care”, we were told that if we got COVID, we should “consider” teaching online to minimize disruption to our students if we weren’t too sick, and should reach out to our doctor and meet with the dean if we couldn’t do that, so that a plan for coverage in our absence could be developed. I remember not knowing whether to rage or cackle at the idea that this advice counted as “self-care” (while also being grateful that it wasn’t another “make sure to get enough sleep and here’s a link to a mindfulness class you can take” message).
I (and most of the rest of my team at work) got COVID during a week in April when we all had traveled to do critical work together in-person. It was the sickest I’ve been in fifteen years, I was quarantining in a hotel a thousand miles from home, I’m high risk and so I was on Paxlovid. And even then, I ended up only taking, all told, probably a day and a half off of work. I went back to working full days before my 5 day course of Pax was up.
I remember it feeling compulsive, and it’s truly bizarre to reflect on, considering I was the one in the office in the before times that would (nicely) yell at people to go home and log off if they came in with a cold. I don’t know why I “worked through” COVID, and I wish that I hadn’t. Typing this out was a super embarrassing exercise; I genuinely do not know why I couldn’t take my own advice and practice enough self-compassion to take enough time off during the pandemic when I was sick with THE illness that was pandemic! It isn’t the choice I thought I would make, and it isn’t the choice I’m proud of having made. Long story short: I didn’t successfully beat the capitalist brainworms, and I regret it!
I think part of the weirdness going on with this is that, culturally, it's become passe to discuss Covid as a danger. Like, we have vaccines, so staying in is over, masking is over, alarm is over. Which is crazy, because cases are rising in many areas.
In the past month, 3 vaccinated people I know have got Covid -- one with a temp of 102.
On top of the cultural reasons to work through it, there's also the current economic realities: more work than before and fewer people. I would love, in the hypothetical and increasingly likely every day scenario where I get covid but am not too sick to work, to make my unplanned time off my bosses' problem for all the reasons outlined here. But in practice, it will be a problem for future me. So it's less a question of "do I need to prove I'm busy and productive instead of resting" and more "will resting actually be restful in the long term?"
I had Covid back in December 2020, and worked through it. I worked in a public library at the time (with sweet municipal worker benefits like great health insurance and decent PTO), and the library shut down as a result of my positive test. It was mortifying. I continued to work from home because a) I didn't want my colleagues (beyond my director, who had to alert the town's board of health) to know that I was the sicky who SHUT DOWN THE WHOLE LIBRARY, and b) because my case was mild and I could work. In fact, working was preferable. At the time 10 day quarantine was the rule after a positive Covid test. I live alone and the loneliness of that quarantine was the absolute worst part of testing positive. A close second was making the phone calls to people who had been around me to let them know about my positive test, including my best friend and her 4-month-old infant. Thankfully I was not very ill and have not had any long Covid symptoms. (PS My best friend and her kid were fine.)
I had Delta in summer of 2021 and was told to WFH (I'm a public librarian). For two weeks, I opened my inbox, stared blankly at it, tried to write things for work, and keep myself on track in meetings. I was expected to track what I was doing for the eight hours of the work day, but a lot of it was spent on the air mattress in my office trying to focus on book reviews before giving up and watching endless makeup tutorials. It's ten months later and I'm now dealing with long covid fatigue and brain fog. It's not as bad as it can be (friends who had it in 2020 were much more severely impacted), but imagine if I hadn't had to to work through those two weeks (and honestly, I felt bad for an entire month, but I only got two weeks of WFH allowance and then was back in the branch, asking people to please wear their masks).
In early 2022, I had what felt like could be covid-- same symptoms, low fever, negative on PCRs. This time, work had changed their policies and I got a pay period's worth of paid leave for covid, so I was able to rest, sleep, and not try to fake it through two hour meetings. I ended those two weeks in perfect shape. My kid tested positive last week (again!) and I got more paid leave to take care of him. It was amazing.
I was just talking about the other day! The work place is not our friend!
Ah, what a timely column, a few days after I test positive (assuming that the newly unmasked commuters on my train are to blame) and have started wondering if my partner, who perfectly fits the type described here, will take off work if he gets it from me.