Be Like Ferris Bueller – Take All Your Sick Days

Be Like Ferris Bueller – Take All Your Sick Days

In the classic ’80s comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular Ferris justifies taking a sickie with the following quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

We should be more like Bueller. You owe it to yourself to take all of your sick days. By December 31, your allocation of paid sick leave should be zero. This holds true whether you’re sick of not.

Why you should take sick leave when you’re sick

As Quartz points out, a flu can keep you contagious for a full week, even after your symptoms wear off. In an ideal world, every employer would encourage you to take sick days until you feel better, then a few work-at-home days while you get less contagious. In the real world, take what you can, and everyone wins:

  • You: You get some time to recover, and no one resents you for sniffling all day or for getting them sick.

  • Your co-workers: They don’t get sick, duh.

  • Your employer: Because no one else got sick, your employer loses less total productivity.

  • People who can’t take sick leave: This is the really important one, as Quartz points out. Some people ” chiefly freelancers and casual staff ” don’t have paid sick leave. If you get them sick while you’re out and about, they can’t just lounge at home and still pick up the same paycheck. If you have the privilege of paid sick leave, don’t be selfish. Use it.

Why you should take sick leave when you’re not

If you still have some sick days left at the end of the year, fake it. Call in sick. It’s a mental health day, whether or not you admit that to your boss. Your employer has budgeted for this. And you’re normalising sick days. If everyone on the team takes a sick day now and then, the ones who really need it don’t get stigmatised. Yes, this is bullshit to make you feel better about lying to your boss. It’s bullshit, but it’s also true.

If you are the boss, tell your employees to go home when they’re sick. Be firm across the board about this, so no one tries to be a hero. Employees love this, because we don’t have the authority to tell our desk neighbours to leave and stop sneezing on us. We’re relying on you, bosses!

Plus, remember that one CEO who thanked an employee for taking a mental health day, and went super-viral, and the whole internet fell over themselves to praise this guy for what frankly should be a normal policy? What an easy win! Take that win, and send your employees home.

Your colleagues don’t care whether it’s the flu or a cold | Quartz

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • You owe it to yourself to tale all of your sick days. That’s why your goal this year should be using up all of them.

    This is terrible advice. The only time it’s vaguely reasonable is if you lose the unused sick days at the end of the year. I’m sure it varies from job to job but most of the ones I’ve seen continually accrue so if you’re never sick after five years you could have 50 days “banked”.

    While you undoubtedly look at that as “omg you’ve lost 50 days” that’s not necessarily the case. What happens if you use 10 each year then you have a major illness or accident where you need to use 50 days to recover? You’re screwed that’s what. You have to start using holiday leave or leave without pay and praying that you have insurance that covers you for that time off.

    Hell it doesn’t even need to be a really serious illness/injury. If you’re burning your sick days constantly then even a week off with the flu means you’ll be dipping into holiday pay or unpaid leave. So yeah, you absolutely should not burn through all your sick leave every year on days when you aren’t really sick.

    That said, I absolutely believe in “mental health days”. If you’ve been slammed and are super stressed and becoming exhausted a sick day for that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But just because you have 10 days up your sleeve doesn’t mean you should take ten of them…

    • Forgot to add, an “or worse” scenario is the person who uses all their sick leave on “fake” sick days then actually comes to work with the flu because they don’t have any banked sick days left and they don’t want to use unpaid leave or holiday time.

    • I agree. I know someone who had banked months of sick leave over 20 years. This was invaluable when she needed a double hip replacement.

  • Awful advice.
    I know a 55 year old woman who used all her sick days whenever they accumulated. When she got breast cancer, had virtually no sick leave, had to use annual leave, then leave without pay. Ruined her remaining life. Sick leave accumulation is like insurance.

  • It’s like most of the irrelevant advice we get dished up on the “Australian” version of Lifehacker that comes from the US…

  • On the days you are not sick but away you add work and stress to your colleagues, who you will also lie to.

  • This is bad advice. In every workplace I’ve been in, the person taking lots of sick days has not been seen as a high performer, but someone at the bottom of the pile.

    You’re much better to take a few carers leave days, for example, if you have someone in your family who needs you there. But I’m guessing those don’t exist in the USA…

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