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A Quick & Dirty Guide to Calling in Sick

Please, don’t share the germs

Abbey Slattery

Mean Girls I'm sick gif

Whether you’ve got a little head cold or a full-blown stomach bug, calling in sick to work can always be a little awkward, but it’s totally fine to do. 

What do you say? How much detail should you include? What if they think you’re faking it?  

Consider this your quick and dirty guide to calling in sick.

How to tell your boss you’re sick

Even though the saying is “calling in sick,” it might be best to go with an email, text, or instant message—however you normally communicate with your boss about work matters.  

Be sure to let your boss know as soon as possible, and give them an update on when you should be back to work.

Hi Beth,

Wanted to let you know I’m under the weather today and will not be able to come into work. I plan on being back tomorrow.

Read more: When It’s Time to Take a Mental Health Day, & How to Ask for It

What to include in your message

Keep your message simple and brief. 

Include in your subject line that you’re taking a sick day, offer a few key details in your email—like who will cover for certain tasks in your absence or important calls you will reschedule, then sign off

Subject line: Sick day


I’ve come down with the flu and won’t be able to make it into work today. I’ll be taking the day to rest and recover, and will be back in the office as soon as I am able. 

Lara will send me notes from the staff meeting, and I rescheduled the call with ACME Corp. 



Read more: 15 Funny Out-Of-Office Replies You’ll Wish You Could Use

What not to say

Your boss doesn’t need to read a novel about your gruesome symptoms. Even if you’re concerned that your boss won’t believe you, keep it short and sweet. 

Don’t offer to work from home if you need to rest. Sure, sometimes a cold is enough to keep you away from coworkers, but not enough to keep you from knocking out a few tasks. But if you feel like you need to take the day to rest, then take the day to rest.

Feeling guilty about taking a sick day? 

You have every right to take a sick day. It’s easy to feel guilty about calling in sick, taking the time you need to rest, rescheduling meetings, or pushing deadlines. 

Not only do you have a right to your health, not taking a sick day when you need one could cost you and your employer. Your productivity suffers, you could pass the illness along to coworkers or clients, fatigue and illness in the workplace can put you and your coworkers and those around you at risk for injury, and untreated sickness can cost you more in healthcare costs over the long run.

In the meantime, wrap yourself in a blanket, take your medicine, turn on a great movie, and catch some much-needed Zs.

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