How to: Call in sick

No matter how hard you fight it, getting sick is an inevitable part of life…

But what’s worse than feeling terrible? Trying to figure out how (or even if) you should call in sick to work – especially if your illness happens during a particularly busy week.

We’ve already covered everything you need to know about returning to work after sickness, but here are our tips on how to call in sick:


Don’t be a hero

Whilst there are definitely occasions where calling in sick isn’t an option (e.g. a hangover, you want to go shopping, you’d rather stay in bed etc.), you should never feel obligated to turn up to work if you don’t feel well enough.

Presenteeism can actually hurt your company – not to mention seriously affect the health of others. Sure, you might feel tough for making it into work with the plague flu, but your colleagues might not see you as a hero when you’re coughing all over their keyboard.

Depending on your situation and the industry you work in – you might be able to soften the blow of calling in sick by offering to work from home or do flexi time hours.

This is also a particularly helpful solution if you’re feeling fine but are having to call in sick because of an unwell child or a household emergency.

Or, if you’re feeling OK to work but don’t want to pass your germs onto others, you’ll be able to get your work done without having to brave the commute – which is especially helpful if your illness is worsened by movement (see also: sweaty trains).

Of course, this is by no means an essential requirement – and should only be done if you feel well enough to work.


Figure out the procedure

Should you call, email, or text?

This is ultimately dependent on your employer – so it’s always best to check your handbook and/or ask your boss which method they prefer.

Although some managers will be happy with an email or text (especially as it’s a good way of letting them know before the working day starts), others might see a phone call as a prerequisite. And, in the case of long-term sickness, a fit note from your GP or hospital doctor might be a necessary requirement.

If the rules aren’t clear – the safest option is to email first and follow up with a phone call. Not only will you be covering all bases, you’ll also be sure they’ve got message.

Just remember: Snapchat is never an acceptable way to call in sick; selfie or no selfie.


Make sure the right people know

Although some illnesses come on without warning, others will rear their head days before you feel bad enough to take a day off.

In fact, you’ll probably spend the week wondering whether it’s that you’re coming down with something or you’re just tired. Either way, you hope for the best and down as many multivitamins and sports drinks as possible (gotta get those electrolytes).

But just in case this isn’t enough to fight off the bug – it’s always a good idea to plan for your possible absence.

Whether it’s through writing up a handover, setting up your out-of-office email, or even just giving your boss/colleagues a heads up the day before; a pre-warning will ensure other members of the team are equipped to pick up the slack when you’re gone.

Of course, organising it beforehand won’t always be an option.

So in the case of sudden illness, try and reschedule any meeting you have, or let your manager know if anything urgently needs picking up in your absence. And, at the very least, you can always make your out of office do the hard work for you.


Don’t overdramatise it

Newsflash: you don’t need to cough on the phone for your illness to be legit.

You also don’t need to put on a croaky voice or pretend to throw up. Because in reality – excessive dramatization is just going to make it less believable. You are not Ferris Beuller.

And, since you’re not actually required to give your boss any specifics on the nature of your illness, you have no obligation to explain yourself. So resist the temptation to lie or exaggerate.

Instead, focus on letting your boss know how long your illness is likely to last. That way, they can gauge how quickly you’re likely to be back at work – and can organise workloads and schedules around it.

Because something like food poisoning is likely to be gone within 24 hours, but a broken leg? Probably a bit longer.


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