Coughs, sniffles, ‘flu, headaches, period pain, viruses… all non-lethal physical ailments that affect us to varying degrees. So how do you decide whether you are well enough to work and how do you deal with scheduling issues that follow if you don’t?
Many of us will struggle in with a hot water bottle and lemon tea spluttering into a tower of tissues. Why? When I ask therapists, the usual response is “I didn’t think I was that bad” or “I thought I could get through the day and relax afterwards”. The reality is that although most of us sit in chairs and listen, it is still physically demanding work. We listen with our bodies, we feel, we intuit and we communicate with our bodies and if all our energy is going into caring for our clients, will we have enough to care for and heal ourselves?
If we miss a whole week of sessions or even just a whole day, we not only lose income but the sick day costs us money too in the form of office rent and time spent rescheduling. Some clients may take the opportunity for a break and find it difficult to return so there is a potential to lose clients too, especially if it is early in their therapy journey. However, looking at it from this day by day or session by session outlook misses the greater perspective.
If we go to work sick and pass on our illness to clients or worse, offer a less professional service, they are less likely to get what they need, enjoy our work or recommend us. If we look like we need looking after, this may lead to clients feeling unable to share their concerns, consciously or not, putting them in the position of carer.
It is our responsibility to mitigate financial loss due to illness. Alongside provision for at least four weeks’ holiday (the statutory minimum in Europe is 20 days paid leave plus bank holidays for employees, and I consider myself my own employee), I also factor in two weeks’ sick leave. This means I put funds aside should it be unexpected, but I also include these projections in my fee setting system so I can budget to cover costs despite illness. This addresses the Finance category from my Professional Self Care chart.