“I feel guilty going home early. Am I that sick? How sick do you have to be to be sick?” a colleague debated.

The answer, like most things involving work, is, “It depends.” It depends on the culture, though I personally believe that sick is sick and employees should be trusted to make a judgment without guilt, and it depends on the reputation the employee has established. In the case of this colleague, she was well respected, certainly in no danger of arousing suspicion, and the culture would have permitted it. Regardless, she felt hesitation to tell her boss she needed to leave early.

It’s no wonder in a society that equates hard work with not only productivity, but hours committed, that we would feel this way. ‘They’re going to think I’m a weak link,’ I worried out loud to my husband after recently missing three days for a cold that wouldn’t seem to go away. This is not to mention that 40 percent of employees in the private sector do not get paid if they’re not present.

Fulfillment comes, in part, from feeling like you’re in a position to make decisions for yourself. If you’re sick and you don’t allow yourself the time you need to recover, not only will you potentially infect your colleagues, you’ll likely breed your own resentment working when you should be on the couch. Take the time you need. Resting while you’re sick is not only optimal for your physical health, but your mental health as well.