How to be productive if you’re having a cold (and cannot take sick leave)

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Written by Mikolaj Skubina

When you’re fighting off a cold but can’t take time off, finding ways to stay productive can be tough. It’s all about finding the right balance between looking after yourself and keeping up with work, making sure you don’t push too hard while still getting things done. Here’s how to keep going when you’re under the weather, focusing on making changes, managing your energy, and setting priorities.

1. Change Up Your Work Space

Make Your Space Comfy: Make your work area as cozy as you can. Have tissues, water, and any meds you need close by. If you can, work somewhere with good air flow to help with your sinuses and make you feel better.

Use Tech Smartly: Make technology work for you. If you’re at home, video chats can replace in-person meetings, so you don’t wear yourself out. Use apps that help you stay organized, like task lists or timers, to keep track of what you need to do and when to take breaks.

2. Look After Your Energy

Choose What to Do First: When you’re not at your best, decide what needs to be done first. Try to do the most important things when you feel your best, which for many is in the morning. Leave the less important tasks for when you’re feeling up to it.

Break Often: Don’t try to work non-stop; take little breaks often. This can help stop you from getting too tired and help manage symptoms. A quick walk, stretching, or just resting for a bit can boost your energy and focus.

Eat and Drink Well: Drinking lots of fluids, like water and tea, and eating light, healthy meals can really help your energy and recovery. Staying hydrated and fed is key.

3. Put Yourself First

Rest When You Can: You might not be able to take a whole day off, but rest when possible. If you can, start later or finish earlier to give your body more time to get better.

Cut Back on Extra Stuff: Try to keep extra activities to a minimum. This helps save your energy for getting better and doing what’s important.

Ask for Help: If you’re finding it hard to keep up, don’t be shy about asking for help or giving some tasks to others. Sharing the load can really help when you’re not feeling well.


Staying productive while you’re sick is about balancing work and taking care of yourself. By changing your work setting, being smart with your energy, and making your health a priority, you can get through this tough time more smoothly. Remember, your well-being comes first, and it’s important to take care of yourself.