, , ,

Sick Time at *Work*?

In a Results-Only Work Environment, paid time off is unlimited as long as the work gets done. That applies to sick time as well – keeping in mind laws and compliance around leaves of absence. Looking at the true intention of ROWE, if someone doesn’t feel well or can’t work, they get paid and no one is tracking their time. Trust employees and treat them like adults.

There are some groups who go ROWE who need to hang onto their sick time for various reasons. Sometimes it’s in their union agreements and for some, it is too early in their ROWE journey to change up sick time. And sometimes different scenarios get thrown at me.

This question, in fact, came at me last week. What happens if you don’t go into the office because you don’t feel well BUT you end up doing some work at home? It’s a puzzler. Do you record sick time? Do you record hours worked? What if you are a salaried employee? All great questions. Someday, I look forward to updated and current labor laws so we can get beyond these questions. For now, my magic wand isn’t that big so let me answer the question this way.

What do you do if you aren’t feeling very well and you do go into the office. Do you record sick time?

See my point? We beat our heads against the wall trying to figure out ways to make sure “time” is accurately recorded. What is the outcome? Was the customer helped that day? Was the work moved forward? If yes, then why would you record sick time?

After reading through this blog post, if you still answer the question: I wasn’t feeling well, I stayed home, I met my results, and I recorded sick time – THEN YOU NEED ROWE. Your outcome is focused on making sure the time is recorded correctly (important for compliance reasons, but NOT an outcome) and we at CultureRx want to help you discover your true outcome. Go ROWE. Go results.

For more information on ROWE visit gorowe.com Stacey can be followed on Twitter @StaceyMSwanson

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Corey McCarren

It’s definitely a very complex issue, and I’m glad that you brought up this aspect of it. What do you think about the issue of someone finishing all of their work for the day, but then they aren’t in the office and maybe went on a run and aren’t available to be contacted, but it’s only 4 PM?

Stacey Swanson

Corey- Great question! In your scenario all of the work is done, and that should be the focus. If someone needs something from the runner who has their work done, what other tools can they use to reach out to them? Email? Text? When the runner is done, they can respond.

Let me ask it this way, is there a difference between a one hour run and a one hour meeting or a one hour lunch? In a ROWE, there isn’t a difference. The focus is on achieving results!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post, Stacey. For the past seven years, I’ve taken off only a handful of times for sick leave. I can generally work from home even if I’m feeling awful. As a result, I end up having a lot of leave left at the end of the year. Rather than losing that time, we need to restructure our compensation and benefits plans so that rarely-off employees don’t lose what is rightfully theirs…and becomes a behavior that’s reinforced and rewarded.

Stacey Swanson

Andrew- Great thought on this post. The conflict of using sick time or not has been around for decades. As an HR professional, I prefer PTO instead of separate vacation and sick, just for the reason you list.

Jo Youngblood

I record it for transparency sake and for keeping my fellow co-workers (some of whom are clock watchers) happy. Because although they shouldn’t know what my leave looks like, it’s amazing what people in your office know about you in general.

Stacey Swanson

Jo- Keeping the clockwatchers happy is great, isn’t it? NOOOOO! 🙂 Think of all the time that is spent on making sure people know where they are and what they are doing to appease someone. It completely detracts from results. Would love to get your group to a ROWE. Let me know if you would like to have a conversation. Thanks! Stacey

Jo Youngblood

Couldn’t agree with you more Stacey. I think I already function on ROWE and just could care less about leave time in general (except when I’m planning maternity leave – but that’s a different soap box all together!). I love ROWE but it certainly requires superiors that are willing to engage in resolving performance issues to handle system abusers (even if that means termination at the end of the day). Groups with consensus building cultures and conflict avoidant cultures may struggle with ROWE.

Stacey Swanson

Jo- Some orgs do struggle with ROWE, but we are definitely seeing a shift. As orgs need to do more with less, the shift is to results. Go ROWE!

Wayne Melton

One of the important points of work is being “at work” and not just producing results. Yeah I know everyone wants results. However team harmony will disappear if everyone can come and go as they please withiout regard to being at work. So leaving early and skipping fridays because you have “time” off available will harm the overall team results for your group.

I have seen some poor time off paid policies. Everyone loves to be off a day sick and be paid. Sometimes union agreements or state law effect how this can be implemented. Perhaps covering longer term time off periods such as more than 3 days up to two weeks would be better than covering say 4 hours or one day as paid. I am not in favor of sick pay for someone going to a scheduled doctor’s appointment or someone who gets a headache at 3pm on Friday afternoon.

Lladro Figurines

Stacey Swanson

Edward- What I would ultimately advocate is a program where you focus on results and not tracking every minute of time. Debating how many hours of time, how it will be classified, etc drives the conversation and focus away from results. I would argue that as a society we focus too much on time tracking and not results. In time, the labor laws should catch up with where the marketplace is driving.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

I stay home when I am ill and wish other people would. I take my laptop with me and if there are urgent matters I submit for comp time, since I am off on sick leave. The same is true if I am off on annual leave and I have to work. I could stay home sick and work all day, but that is not allowed. If I am away, working at home, it has to be approved and telecommuting isn’t really a viable option where I work.

Stacey Swanson


I wish for you the day when you have the freedom to focus on achieving your results and not wasting time on all of the rules around where you are “supposed” to be to get your work done. Getting approval to work from home is silly this day and age. Do people need approval to work from the office? Go ROWE 🙂

Wayne Melton


There are so many many jobs in the private sector that do no fit neatly into a ROWE work environment. All the millions of people serving others as teachers, bus drivers, waitresses, doctors, nurses, and the list goes on. Where I see people believing in ROWE environments are government workers. Which is a disconnect from what the 85% of the working public believes about government workers results. Most do not believe that government workers actually produce results or the results expectations are set way too low. We have all see postal worker new stories where the letter carriers get their route done in 90 minutes and have to waste time the rest of the day. One of the TV stations in Philly has a daily segment on following public employees they find outside of bars and their homes when they are supposed to be working.

Obviously not all government workers are poor but results only environments tend over time to move towards lower and lower results. A manager setting results expectations does not want his/her whole team failing to meet high expectations as it reflects on their management ability.

Don’t get me wrong. Sick is sick but I do not believe you can treat everyone in large organizations as adults over an extended period of time. We have one out of six retail workers stealing items from their employers. We have jails full of criminals representing about 5% of the public. I am not sure “trust” without followup is an adult approach.


Stacey Swanson


We are seeing and have experienced ROWE success with teachers, child care workers and in the health care industry. ROWE works anywhere people want to focus on results- that includes government.

You are right, the public perception of government workers isn’t good. And when news crews are following workers around the businesses of Philly to catch people “away” from work- I would ask- if they are in the office, how do you know they are achieving results?

To remedy the situation, you have to start somewhere. And in my opinion, ROWE is the answer. And your final comment, the trust without follow up may not be an adult approach. I completely agree! You need to hold people accountable to those results, and if you don’t- then you have a flex plan of sorts and an opportunity for the media to continue to attach to where people are and what they are not doing.

My blog post this week is on accountability- a nice follow up to this conversation!