Work + Money

Don't Be a Hero: How to Call in Sick at Work

Work + Money

by Tanya Edwards


Karen Moskowitz for Getty Images

Karen Moskowitz for Getty Images

Raise your hand if you've been here: It's Monday morning, and you've been up all night wiping your runny nose, coughing, and feeling achy all over. All you really want to do is wrap that duvet even tighter around you and guzzle Gatorade, but you're going to tough it out and go into work, right?


Wrong. So wrong.

I know, I'm not your manager, but I do know what it's like to have employees show up to the office looking like they might keel over, and I'm giving you permission to call in sick. You especially have permission if you think you have the flu. (WebMD has this list of symptoms to help you decide.) Flu season is in full disgusting swing, with 25 states reporting outbreaks. The flu often comes with a fever, so if you're running any sort of temperature, stay home. If you're sick to your stomach, stay home. If you have aches from head to toe, for the love of all your fellow coworkers, stay home. You're not going to get a medal for getting everyone sick...even if you tell yourself the following:

"I Can Tough It Out"
Maybe you have an important project due, and maybe technically you can tough it out. But when you're more contagious than the Outbreak monkey, it's time to work remotely. Getting everyone in the office sick because you want to impress your boss with your no-102-degree-fever-can-keep-me-down attitude is actually pretty selfish. Nobody else wants to get sick, and for those with elderly relatives or young children at home, the impact of flu can be especially serious.

See more: 13 Sneaky Habits That Can Cause Acne

I Have to Go in or My Boss Will Think I'm Lying
If you're a dependable, enthusiastic employee, chances are pretty slim your boss will think you're just trying to get a free vacation day. And even if she does (say, you get sick on a Friday), if you're getting your work done and don't call in sick all the time, odds are she won't really care. Most managers would rather have a great employee take a health day than worry about if they're really sick or not.

"If I Do Call In, I Need to Be Really, Really Convincing"
The best way to show your boss that you're dependable is to plan ahead for problems. This means asking her how she'd like to hear from you in the event you get sick--whether by phone, email, or maybe text. When you do reach out to tell her you're under the weather, don't give her a list of all your symptoms, all the details about your appointment with the doctor that day, and how you're just so, so upset to not be at work. Or, if you call, skip the whole routine of making your voice sound super sick (cough, cough) and just shoot it straight. She doesn't need a show--just a heads-up that you're not going to be in. When you're still well, talk to a coworker about being your recap buddy so you'll be caught up on what you missed while you're out, and make working remotely easy--seriously, do this! You may need passwords and other information to access email from home. Let your boss know what work you will be available to do. And if you're too sick to work from home, communicate that upfront clearly and concisely.

Want more career advice? Check out this video on how to get ahead at work.

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