Staying Healthy in a Hybrid World

The Covid pandemic forced the majority of the global workforce to abandon their traditional office space. It challenged them to create a new and very different home work environment. At times this was vastly more productive, and other times it was much less productive.

Today I want to explore one area I think we will all need to address going forward as leaders. What sick time looks like in a hybrid work environment. This can be both mental and physical issues. And more importantly, how to handle the overarching challenge of maintaining business continuity and productivity, despite an increasingly hybrid work environment.

With approximately 35% of Americans now permanently working from home, employers are having to reexamine their workplace policies, especially when it comes to sick leave. Some companies are even contemplating if sick leave is even necessary.

What is sick time in a hybrid world?

Do I call in sick when I am already home? Since you are already working from home, to call in sick may seem pointless and maybe almost irritating for both employees and employers. Figuring they can battle the illness and still produce quality work, workers forge forward. Especially since in an office based world, there are legal ramifications to forcing team members to work while sick. 

Here’s a few examples.

  • How do you handle a sick day when you are already working from home? Do you really need to let everyone know at 8am that you will be staying in bed and continuing to work all morning?
  • How do you handle a team members one hour doctors visit at 9am when most team members aren’t fully online until 10am anyways?
  • How do you handle recurring doctors appointments that are increasingly difficult to track? Team members that found it difficult to hide health issues at the office can technically leave throughout the day without anyone noticing if they plan visits early in the morning, around lunch, or late in the afternoon.
  • If you are feeling run down on a Friday after, do you simply take a half day to recoup your mental health and then make it up working on Sunday afternoon?

At the end of the day, many of these issues center around the futile attempt to balance workplace productivity with health. And I’ve written before about how this is a largely futile attempt. Productivity is an illusion. We should instead chase value and results.

How should we look at the impact of family?

Often, not only are team members working while sick, but they are playing caretakers to sick children, but again, they forge forward. In the beginning it may feel that all is under control, but Greg Courser, an occupational medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, warns, “people are not going to get better, they’re going to get sicker; they’re going to get more stressed out and there’s going to be all sorts of consequences that we don’t even know about yet.”

Pre-pandemic the lines between parents who were primary caretakers and working parents were very clear. But how do you address working parents who are the primary caretaker?

The EEOC has made it abundantly clear that working parents are going to more protected, not less in the future.

If a parent starts work at 6am, leaves to drop off their children at 8am, and returns to work by 10am, is that a productivity boost or a drain? Similarly if a parent leaves work at 3pm for pickup from school, but then gets back online at night, does it even matter?

Most of us never liked to call in sick to work. Often, we would go into the workplace sick putting others at risk; we would feel guilty. Now, we can stay home and avoid getting our coworkers sick, but the guilt still exists; it is just different. 

Do we admit that we are prioritizing health?

We now feel guilty for calling in sick since we are already home. Research would agree, though, if we don’t put the computers down and concentrate on our own physical and mental health, the workplace is in real danger. Dropbox has even gone as far to see that stress is slowly eroding workplace productivity.

Is it important to create an environment where team members are encouraged to push through sickness or for them to raise their hand and take care of themselves? Especially since men and women both have very different reactions to stress and admitting health issues.

To create an inclusive environment, it may be impossible to ignore the lack of definition around health and sickness.

Most experts agree that while some people can manage mild illnesses while working, most illnesses take time away from work to recover; even if the work is at home. The risk is that an illness will exacerbate and take a longer time to recoup, often requiring more doctor’s visits, more time off, and more use of insurance. 

How do we balance it all?

You could argue we still haven’t found balance at work. Some chase work/life balance. Other companies are implementing tracking and monitoring tools. But the risk is that the stress of all of it will have a negative impact on your psychological health, often leading to poor performance at work and even depression.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sick at home or at the office; if you’re working sick, research suggests your company is not the recipient of your best efforts.

Since research suggests people are not clocking in sick, making “sick days” a thing of the past, employers need to review this policy carefully.  These practices require understanding from both the employee and employer, and have the potential to redefine sick leave. No longer should we ask, “should I call in sick”?  We should already know the answer.

Where do we go from here?

Ultimately, every organization will need a more defined health policy in the future that addresses remote, flex hybrid, and office environments. Right now the majority of companies are leaving it up to team members to decide on a case-by-case basis.

We all know that doesn’t work in every other area of work. So, why would it work when it comes to something as critical and also confidential as our health? Here’s a few examples of some items you could write into a health policy for your team members.

  1. How to handle communicating when you are sick
  2. How to handle working partial days or partial weeks
  3. How to handle doctors visits or recurring health appointments during the day
  4. How to prioritize long-term physical health through checkups
  5. How to prioritize long-term mental health through wellness checks and mental health days
  6. How to plan your week around your productive time and unscheduled family emergencies
  7. How to communicate your schedule to your team and your manager as soon as something changes in your normally recurring schedule

How can we lead by example?

Ultimately as leaders we set the example for our teams. If we need time off, take time off, But don’t simply turn a 40 hour week into a 32 hour week without any plan to makeup the time. We can all work together in this new hybrid era.

I believe strongly in a future where productivity, value, and health can be woven together in a framework of sustainable happiness. But it won’t happen without clear definition and candid conversations.

Balancing Acid vs. Alkaline Foods in Your Diet

I’m fascinated with algorithms and equations. Part of me thinks that I don’t actually love optimizing for Google, as much as Google is the most profitable problem solving puzzle the modern world has ever seen.

What does this have to do with balancing the equation of acid and alkaline foods and a healthy diet? Read on.

I see websites in terms of positive and negatives. A + for keyword density and link profile, a – for too many on page links and shallow content. So obviously when I started looking at my health goals for 2012, I took to it with the same mindset.

The average American diet is seriously out of balance, and I realized that mine is too. Healthy eating doesn’t just mean watching your protein, carbs, and intake of double cheeseburgers, there is a whole separate equation that I was missing. This starts with the types of foods we eat and even includes focusing on more non-GMO produce and organic meats.

The issue is clear. There are no alkaline foods to balance the equation, just check out the chart below and ask yourself what our average American diet looks like.

Chart of acid vs. alkaline foods

This is where the equation of balancing acid vs. alkaline foods comes in. You have to understand why it matters, how it works, and the consequences of not getting it right.

Have you ever seen somebody buy an above-ground pool on a whim and then not keep the water balanced? They forget how important the right chlorine levels are and soon the water is green with algae.

Balancing your diet is like drinking balanced water. It does not happen overnight, and it requires slow and careful changes to get there.

Balancing your diet is like balancing water

It’s the same thing with keeping your car clean or vacuuming your home once a week. A clear space leads to a clear mind. And that brings me back to balancing your diet.

It’s the same way with our bodies. According to most medical studies, too much acid in our diet leads to arthritis, cancer, stomach problems, etc. Too much alkaline foods in our diet can also lead to problems.

The issue in America is that we consume far too many acidic foods, and barely any alkaline foods. I love what microbiologist Dr. Young says about internal pH.

The pH level of our internal fluids affects every cell in our bodies. The entire metabolic process depends on an alkaline environment. Chronic over acidity corrodes body tissue, and if left unchecked will interrupt all cellular activities and functions, from the beating of your heart to the neutral firing of your brain. In other words, over-acidity interferes with life itself.

Like many others, I often wonder why so many people have health problems today. It seems that more people than ever struggle with obesity, high blood pressure, and chronic auto-immune diseases. But all you have to do is look around to see we aren’t doing a very good job of balancing our diet.

Chronic health conditions were found in 12.8% of children studied in 1994, compared with 26.6% of another group of same-aged children studied in 2006, the researchers found.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food —Hippocrates

We have to get better at understanding the foods we eat, instead of just treating everything with a prescription. Not once have I ever seen a doctor who asked about my diet, they all just want to prescribe medicines to “fix the problem”.

But often the problem is not in our bodies, more often than not it is caused by the foods we eat. We’re doing this to ourselves, and a large part of it is that we keep our bodies constantly in a state of high acidity.

Image of foods with highly acidic content

I am the typical American, no different than most. Here is my typical day:

I wake up with a big bowl of acid (cereal), and wash it down with a cup of acid (orange juice). Maybe on the way to work I stop at the gas station to fill up my car, and while I’m inside I grab some acid (red bull) as a wake up drink.

For lunch of course it’s more of the same, a double acid burger with cheese, acid fries, and to wash it all down more acid (coke). After work I need some acid to unwind (beer), plus some acid (chips) to snack on.

Whew I’m finally home! Now I can have some grilled acid (chicken), with some cheesy acid (bread), and maybe a salad before. That used to be the way the majority of my days went, does that sound like you?

Sure I’d throw in veggies or fruit (alkaline foods) now and then, but the most of the time my daily intake was 80-95%, if not 100% acid. Now my goal is different, more alkaline foods and less acid ones each day.

Image of alkaline foods

Many people attribute a highly acid diet to be one of the main causes of premature aging, and that’s exactly how I felt, like an old man.

I really encourage you to just think about what you eat for a few days, in terms of acid vs. alkaline foods. Keep a mental checklist, or maybe write it out if you aren’t quite the spatial thinker I am.

You might be surprised at just how much acid you’re throwing at your expecting your body to deal with each day.