You've woken up feeling like a truck hit you. You think to yourself, “Should I brave it or call in sick today?” Sound familiar?
We are often conflicted about prioritizing our health over work, which reflects today’s fast-paced hustle culture. We get it; no matter how supportive your manager is, you do not want to fall behind in your work, inconvenience your co-workers, or be seen as ‘faking’ it. That’s why calling in sick is usually reserved for severe illnesses.
This unhealthy pattern of prioritizing work over health is changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But then, it was ubiquitous to see your co-workers cough and sniffle their way through the workday before 2020. You may have even been in confined meeting rooms with them.
Almost two years into the pandemic, we are already seeing this trend change. Now, clearing of a throat or just a sneeze can trigger a room to clear out faster than you can say – bless you! But, risk of spreading infection aside, many people have reprioritized physical and mental health over the need for constant productivity during the lockdown.
Whether you’re already back in the office or continue to work remotely, it’s best to call in sick and take some time off when you feel unwell. Below, we will cover some essential tips on how to call in sick professionally so you can take the time you need to recover.
Do You Call in Sick While Working Remote?
The chances are that you have been working remotely for over a year now. Many of us have built a fully functioning office, a home gym, entertainment centers, and gourmet kitchens right at home. So why would you ever leave?
More and more companies are changing their policies to switch to a remote workforce. When the pandemic finally subsides, a large percentage of employees will choose to stay at home permanently.
So what’s the protocol? Should you call in sick when working remotely? The answer is a definite yes!
It is easy to avoid an awkward conversation when working remotely and not sick enough to avoid work altogether. Be careful, though, because you may not be well enough to give work your full attention. The last thing you want is to give your manager and co-workers the impression that you are slacking off. So it’s better to take the day off.
Remember, when working remotely, it is always better to over-communicate.
As a side note: We have been hearing a lot about remote workers faking illness and calling in sick. Besides being unprofessional, this is unfair to your employer and grounds for termination. It is best to maintain a high degree of professionalism and take a vacation day if you want to take time to sleep in, watch a movie, go shopping or set up your new smart home gym.
How to Call in Sick – When Working Remote or In-Office
Now, let’s get started with the top tips on how to call in sick in a professional manner.
1. Know Thy Employer
Is calling in sick more accepted now? It depends on the workplace, but it might be wise to check your company's policy before you call in sick. According to a new CareerBuilder survey of over 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals, 20% have fired an employee for being absent too many times due to illness. So if you're thinking about staying home because you don't feel well enough to go to work today, pay attention to the guidelines.
The most important thing is to know your company’s policies for sick leave. For example, how many days are you allowed to take? How many have you already taken? Do you require a doctor’s note? You can usually get this information from your HR department or directly from your manager.
Another option you should investigate is whether or not you can simply work remotely instead of taking the day off. If you are not feeling incapacitated and don’t want to infect your co-workers, this can be a good option.
If you are too sick to work, be careful not to end up working all day from bed. It is easy enough to attend a meeting here and there or shoot off some emails, but a full day’s rest is priceless. If you have taken the day off sick, then use it to recover.
Next, let's talk about when to inform your manager.
2. Let Your Manager Know as Soon as Possible
As a matter of principle, inform your manager as soon as possible. For example, if you woke up in the morning and feel sick enough to take a day off, then let your manager know right away. Likewise, if you felt like something was coming on when leaving work the previous night, let your manager know that you may be coming down with something.
Why? So your manager can make any necessary arrangements to fill in during your absence. The sooner you can let them know, the easier it will be for you and them to manage your absence without negatively impacting your professional commitments.
3. Call, Email, or Text?
There are plenty of ways to get in touch with your employer. Your company may have specific policies around communicating days off, or your manager may have a preference. For example, you may have to provide a written email for HR records. In other cases, a text to your manager will do. Again, it’s crucial to abide by your company’s specific policies and know the best way to communicate with your manager.
4. What to Say?
Our recommendation is to keep it short. It’s natural to feel the urge to sell your symptoms and make your manager understand that you’re not faking it. However, if you provide too much detail, it may just come across as disingenuous and have the opposite effect of what you were intending.
So keep the details of your ailment to a minimum! For example, it is enough to say that you have the flu and can not work today. There is no need to elaborate on the night you’ve just had either throwing up, not sleeping well, or being concerned about the color of your phlegm. Your manager does not care!
Where you should offer details is to identify any meetings or deadlines that you have for the day. If so, share details on what they are and whether anyone else on the team can cover for you.
If there is any pertinent information that your manager will need in your absence, you should send it in the same email. Also, if you have any meetings scheduled with your dial-in/conference line, reschedule them for a later date or share the PIN with your manager or your backup.
5. Don’t Forget About Your Team and Co-Workers
To maintain the highest standard of professionalism when calling in sick, let your team and co-workers know that you’ll be missing work as well. If you lead a team, you can set the right example by always being transparent and setting the right expectations for everyone else.
Whether you are a people manager or leading a project, your team depends on you for leadership and guidance. So make sure to send a notice of absence as early as possible. As a leader, you should also have a backup person assigned who can fill in for you when you are away.
Make sure that you have a one-on-one conversation with your chosen backup to set the right expectations and provide any information they may need to get the job done. This is also great practice if you are grooming them as your successor. By having a plan in place, you will reduce the impact of your forced absence from work.
Example Messages for Calling (or Emailing) in Sick
Here are some sample messages you can use to call in sick. Remember to adapt these to suit your condition and situation.
If You are Starting to Feel Sick the Night Before
Hi <Manager Name>,
I am feeling flu symptoms coming on, so I may have to stay home tomorrow. I will let you know if I feel better in the morning and can come into the office. I have let <backup prime> know as well. They will cover my meetings tomorrow. Nothing should come your way, but please don’t hesitate to text me if something does come up.
Hi <backup prime>
As discussed on the phone, I will let you know if I feel better in the morning and can come in. I have already prepared the presentation for the 1 pm meeting and sent it out. Please review with <name> and have <name 2> send out the notes/action items if I cannot make the meeting.
I appreciate it.
If You Woke Up Sick
Hi <Manager Name>,
I woke up with a terrible migraine and will need to stay home today to recover. I have shifted my meetings and made arrangements with ‘co-worker name’ to cover the urgent ones. Please text me if something unavoidable comes up and requires my attention.
Hi <Backup Prime>
As discussed on the phone, thanks for covering for me today. Hopefully, I can be back online tomorrow, even if I can’t make it to the office. I have moved all meetings except the one regarding <Topic> at 1 pm. Here’s my PIN to open my conference bridge when it’s time: XXXX.
If you Have a Doctor’s Appointment
Hi <Manager Name>,
I have been getting some pain in my abdomen for the last two days and have a doctor’s appointment this morning to get it checked out. As a result, I will be away from the office from 9 am to approximately 11 am. I will not be able to respond to emails or calls during this time, but I will respond upon my return. I have already rearranged my meetings to suit.
Hi <Team, Backup Prime>
I have a doctor’s appointment this morning and will be unavailable till about 11 am. <Name> may reach out for help with <xyz> before the 10:30 am meeting. Please assist in my absence, if required. I will come by your desk/call you when I’m back to work.
Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health
It’s unfortunate, but physical health still often takes precedence over our mental health. Since sniffles or coughs do not measure it, it is hard to express a need for time away from work due to mental health reasons. Over time, this just adds to the mental fatigue and the issues compound.
These days, most companies are supportive of time off to prioritize mental health recovery. You just need to know how to approach it the right way.
1. Know Thy Resources
Chances are, your company offers resources for you to manage your mental health. Take advantage of these resources. Whether it is online or in-person counseling, meditation sessions, or prescription drug plans, you likely have many options available to you.
2. Get Help on Your Side
Due to the intangible nature of mental health, you may have to gather more support to take time off work. Meet with your family doctor and a counselor to discuss. Depending on your employer’s policies, a written recommendation from them may be required for you to take some time off work.
3. What to Say
As with any physical ailment, discuss it with your manager. In this case, it is better to discuss it over the phone. Let them know if you have met with your doctor or therapist. You do not have to go into details if you don’t want to. Your company should respect your privacy.
Most companies have an allowance for short-term disability leaves for a variety of reasons. With a note from your therapist or doctor, you can apply to take some time off to recover. In most cases, your insurance should continue providing a portion of your salary and benefits for a set amount of time.
Prioritize Your Health
Your physical and mental health is the most important thing! Make sure to follow the steps above to have a professional discussion with your employer and take the time you need to recover. Your manager, team, and co-workers will appreciate your well-planned approach when you return to work rejuvenated and healthy.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels.
Ash & Pri are the Founders of AshandPri.com where they empower others to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. They achieved financial freedom in their 30's and have traveled to over 30 countries, thanks to a disciplined approach to money management. Both hold an MBA degree and have 13+ years of experience in financial services, consulting, and telecommunications.