ahead of personal comfort.”
That same lawyer takes what I think of
as the “gladiator approach”: Be there un-
less something is physically holding you
back — and you can’t fight it off no matter
what you do. “Working while sick is mind
over matter,” he says. “If that is not pos-
sible, you should certainly not be work-
ing. But if you have a cold or allergies or
something that allows you to continue to
function, then don’t give into it.”
But many lawyers expressed concerns
about the impact of a habit of working
while sick on a lawyer’s health and over-
all well-being. And other respondents
professed concern that working while ill
does not work as a long-term solution to
maintaining productivity — for both indi-
viduals and groups. Continuing to work
“extends recovery time, in my opinion,”
said one respondent. And lawyers who
feel compelled to come into the office
when ill can expose all of our colleagues
to illness, slowing down the whole office.
(In a perfect example of “do as I say, not
as I do,” everyone seemed to think their
individual need to come into the office
when sick was justified, but almost ev-
erybody preferred that sick colleagues
Several respondents recognized that,
while client service may motivate a lawyer
to continue working while ill, the severity
of a lawyer’s condition might ultimately
harm the client’s interests. “Working
when seriously ill compromises both the
quality of services to the client and the
health of the attorney,” concludes one lawyer. “There may be a reduction of critical
thinking, especially while taking medicine,” worries another attorney.
The decision to work while sick is part
of a bigger question that we all must ask
ourselves: Who is in charge of my life, me
or my job? We all have a tendency to give
ourselves over to our practices, and when
things get busy or stressful, the first
thing to go is our own well-being. After
three years of feeling like I was owned
by my job, I decided a while back that my
work was going to be an important part of
my life, but not the only part. The surprising result is that, since I now feel empowered to choose whether to work late or
on weekends or while ill (and the answer
is still typically “Yes, if needed”), I am a
more successful, confident practitioner.
Finally, when you do get sick, give
yourself permission to recover. While a
lot of us feel compelled to soldier on like
everything is business as usual when
we are sick, downplaying the impact of
illness is a good way to extend recovery
time. While we like to project an image of
invincibility, we are not superhuman. NWL
is an attorney at
Kirkland. She is
the chair of the
mittee and a member of the Judicial
Recommendation Committee. She is
a co-chair of the Washington State
Community Association Institute
Communications Committee. She
would like to thank Julie Yari for
providing relevant research materi-
als for this piece, those attorneys
who responded to her list-serve
questions, and modern medicine for
keeping her alive during her cold,
which caused her great suffering.
She can be reached at allison.
What I Think Everyone Else Should Do
I am not a human resources expert, but I have worked while sick plenty of times and I
have now heard from a number of other attorneys who have kept at it while under the
weather. Based on what I have learned, I have a few recommendations for both attorneys and the people who employ them:
•;Promote;a;“culture;of;health”;in;the;workplace.;A;study;by;Integrated;Benefits;Insti-tute, a nonprofit research firm, investigated the link between an employer’s health
culture and work performance, using a database of information from 1,268 employees at 53 U.S. organizations. The study found that a workplace that prioritizes
employee health results in employees who work more and accomplish more than at
organizations with a weak health culture. A culture of health could include allowing
for flexible schedules to permit exercise during the work day and providing time off
discourages employees from taking time off when they are sick.
will not have to worry about playing catch-up on billables after they are ill.
paid time off to go get the vaccine.
the office if you suspect an oncoming ailment.
People do not think: “Wow, I am so impressed that this deathly ill person dragged
himself out of bed to be here.” They instead worry about whether they are going to
have to shake your germ-blanketed hand.
office. You will feel more confident about taking time off if you can delegate to someone whom you feel can get the job done in your absence, and your clients will trust
you and know you are working hard for their interests.
Eat right, exercise, and see your doctor and dentist regularly. This sounds obvious
to some of us, but many of us (me, for example, between 2007 and 2010) become so
focused on work that we forget that we are the main characters in our own lives.
health and general well-being are important to you.
•;Dial;back;your;practice.;For;older;lawyers;with;issues;regarding;recurring;or;long-term illness, Badger encourages considering reducing the size of your workload, and
perhaps avoiding practice areas and tasks that cause you stress.