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Should workers use all of their sick time?

Question Everything: Should workers use all of their sick time?
Question Everything: Should workers use all of their sick time? 04:31

BOSTON - It feels like everyone is sick right now, but some are still going to work. Others feel fine but are calling out to burn through their remaining sick time. It turns out, your philosophy on sick days might be based on your age. 

On a recent morning, I spoke with workers of all ages, all with different perspectives on sick time, specifically is it OK to use all your time?

Diana White an experienced worker at an oil company told me she worries about taking heat for calling out with a cold. "They want you to have that benefit but if we take them, it's like 'You called in sick!' I feel the pressure to work," White said. 

But younger workers told me they feel no guilt taking a sick day for a mental health break. A young woman named Jessie says it's a generational thing. "You're not going to do your work effectively because you are not in a good mood," she said. 

But older workers? Jesse added, "The mindset is just work through it." 

Those attitudes on the street line up with a new study by Gusto, a company that specializes in online payroll and human resources. 

The Gusto study found 32% of workers aged 25-34 have taken sick time this year. That age group is the most likely to use their sick days. The study also found, post pandemic, younger workers are putting a premium on physical and mental health, taking 45% more sick time now than in 2019. 

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David Turetsky is the Chief Human Resource Officer at, a company that studies all kinds of workplace trends. Turetsky believes attitudes toward sick time are shifting. 

"I don't think the 'kids' these days actually have a problem and being honest and saying, 'I'm sick and I'm not coming in.' That honesty is refreshing because if they are not in the right headspace their productivity will suffer," Turetsky said. "Whereas us older people have that fear of missing out or that fear of 'well if I don't do it, they'll find someone else to do it.'" 

About one-quarter of workers now have a hybrid schedule which adds a twist to the debate. If you wake up in the morning and feel terrible, do you still call out sick when your couch is your desk? 

On social media, I asked hybrid workers if they call out sick less often. Every single person said they are more likely to work through the sickness, taking meetings and taking medicine and naps in between. 

Turetsky says that's a mistake. "From a sick time perspective, we usually 'soldier on through' and even if we are sick we will be on those calls and probably on mute as we sneeze and cough and that's not a good thing. We need to heal," Turetsky said. 

No matter if you are Gen-Z or a Boomer, in office or at home, the "I need to burn up my sick days by the end of the year" sick call is not a good idea. Being honest, Turetsky says, is nothing to sneeze at. 

"Have a conversation with your boss," Turetsky said. "Ask your boss plainly and honestly, 'I'm not sick right now but I have some time banked, can I take it alongside my vacation time?' because the worst thing would to be fired on Christmas!" 

If you have a question you'd like us to look into, please email   

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