7 Basic Tips for Calling in Sick (And What To Avoid)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you are sick, it is important that you give your body the necessary rest in order to come back to the office and work at full capacity. It is equally important that you inform your coworkers and your managers of your absence. You may come across several instances in your career where you have to notify your company or supervisor about taking a sick leave. In this article, we examine some tips for calling in sick and some things to consider avoiding while making that call.

7 tips for calling in sick

Here are some tips to follow when you must call in sick to work:

1. Inform at the earliest

It is good practice to let your supervisor, manager or concerned coworkers know about your unavailability at the earliest. If you feel a fever or health complication coming up, inform concerned individuals early on, so that they have plenty of time to figure out a plan to work in your absence. If you wake up sick on a particular day, make it a point to inform your office first thing in the morning.

Example: "Hi Arun, I woke up with a migraine today and am not in a position to use a computer screen, as it can worsen my condition. I would like to take a medical leave for the day. I expect to be back at the office tomorrow, but I will keep you posted either way."

2. Be brief while explaining your condition

Refrain from providing unnecessary details of your condition. Unless you are someone who calls in sick very frequently, your coworkers and employer may not consider questioning you further. Instead of going into the details of your medical condition, you may simply try to explain how your condition may prevent you from being productive.

Example: "Hi Susan, I met with an accident on my way to the office. I need to get myself checked at the hospital and complete some formalities, so I may not be able to come in to work today. I will update you on my situation when I get further clarity."

3. Guide your coworkers

When you take leave, it is important that you enable your coworkers to take on your responsibilities and complete your tasks effectively. This ensures that office productivity is not compromised by your absence. Consider making a call to one or more of your coworkers to whom you can delegate crucial responsibilities.

Example: "Hi Srishti, I won't be coming in to the office today. I was wondering if you would be able to take on some of my responsibilities for the day. For starters, can you brief the new interns about their duties and responsibilities, and give them a tour of the office? Ansar from HR has some materials for orientation and onboarding that I have prepared. I can call and ask him to deliver those to you as soon as possible."

4. Indicate your availability

Even though you are sick, you may be in a condition to reply to emails, make calls or coordinate office activities. If so, it is good practice to inform your office of the same. State your availability for any tasks or activities you can handle confidently and indicate that you may not be available for anything additional.

Example: "Since the sprain will not prevent me from using my phone, I can coordinate the brainstorming session over a call and respond to any queries that may arise. However, I will be bedded the whole day and the doctor has advised me not to use the system. So I will not be available to reply to emails. I will send out an email notifying everyone in the department about this. Meanwhile, can you check with Gautam and ask him to call me as soon as he is done with the work I had assigned him yesterday?"

5. Relay important information

You may hold information that is crucial to office operations. It is your responsibility to relay this information to coworkers, managers or superiors to ensure that the office functions effectively in your absence. If you have any documents, files, tools or equipment that may be required at the office, make arrangements to have them delivered.

Example: "My paralegal Shubham has the case files from the previous appearance. Collect the files and hand them over to David before he meets with the Judge over lunch. He can review them on his way there. Also, mention that the date for the next hearing has been pushed by a week, so it will happen in November instead of October. Hope that clears the confusion."

6. Follow up

You may follow up and make enquiries regarding office activities during your day off. This shows that you are invested in your work. If you have delegated tasks to a coworker, you can call them to track their progress or enquire if they have questions. If you are aware of any developments that have happened in your absence, you can call or email your superiors to inform them of the same.

Example: "Hi Palak, how did the meeting go? If you have prepared the minutes, you can share them on the drive. I will review them tonight. Did our CEO mention anything about the next phase of our project?"

7. Send a sick leave email

Although you may have conveyed your condition to your coworkers over a phone call, it is good practice to follow up with a sick leave email furnishing all necessary details. This becomes an official record of your absence and helps the company take your leave into account while documenting PTO (paid time off) and salary details. You can also attach a doctor's note with your email if necessary. This may be important when you go on leave for extended periods of time.

Related: What Is PTO? Definition and Types of PTO To Know More About

Why should I call in sick?

When you are sick, calling in to inform your colleagues, manager or client of your absence is crucial because it shows your professionalism. If there is a company protocol in place regarding sick leave, try to understand and follow it accurately. Relaying the information early can ensure that everything works smoothly in your absence. This may help you recover peacefully, without having to compromise on productivity.

Related: An In-Depth Guide to Professionalism

When to call in sick

The protocols for sick leave may vary by industry and job, but there are some common protocols that are usually acceptable. In the case of shift jobs, a huge clientele or when you normally work on a tight schedule, there may be difficulties if you unexpectedly fall sick. Familiarise yourself with your company's sick leave policies, including how it affects your pay, whether you have to accrue a certain amount of hours and what your employer expects of you when taking a sick day.

It is good practise to let your manager or concerned coworkers know about your inability to come to work as early as possible. It is common practice to notify them over the phone before you send a formal email notification. However, before making a phone call, ensure that you are doing so at an appropriate time and that phone calls are an accepted means of communication for such purposes. Unless it is a sudden emergency, try to inform your workplace of your sick leave so that coworkers and managers have ample time to plan how to work in your absence.

Related: Essential Email Etiquette Rules for Workplace

What to convey when you call in sick

Consider keeping your call short and specific. Explain why you are taking leave and for how many days you expect to be out of the office. Also, state whether you would be available to attend important calls or meetings from home. If your company requires you to provide a doctor's note, attach it to the sick leave application letter or email that you send after the leave has been approved over a phone call.

It is always prudent to have a person who can be your stand-in contact. This person can take care of important tasks in your absence. Inform your manager who the person of contact is and brief the person about any duties or tasks that may require their assistance.

Related: How To Write an Application for Sick Leave (With Example)

What to avoid when calling in sick

While calling in sick, refrain from making dishonest statements. Avoid exaggerating the severity of your condition. The information you share over the phone can be vague and brief, as long as you clarify the reasons for your unavailability.

If you do not know the exact nature of your sickness, consider the possibility that your health condition may worsen over time. Avoid taking on responsibilities unless you are extremely confident of being able to handle them. When you commit to a task or duty, your coworkers may proceed with their duties, expecting you to complete yours within a reasonable time frame. Sudden or unforeseen changes to this situation can disrupt multiple workflows within the office.

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