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Sometimes you just need the day off. And there are plenty of legitimate reasons. So rather than stressing over whether you really “deserve” to miss a day, see if one of these common reasons to call out from work applies.
Are you still worried about how you're going to break it to your boss? Whether your excuse seems professional or unprofessional is all about how you phrase it. You don’t need to share all the details of your personal life, but being honest with your employer is important. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up 11+ excuses to get out of work that are reasonable and well-worded — whether you’re looking to call out on short notice or you have some time to give your boss a heads up.
If you're really sick, you're not going to perform well or be all that productive anyway. It's better that you take the day off to get well sooner and sign back on when you’re recharged and ready to roll.
Even if you think you could still do your job with whatever illness you have, if you work at an office, you need to consider the other people you’d interact with at work. None of your coworkers will be happy if they catch something from you — whether it’s a cold, stomach bug, or something more serious like COVID-19. If you can work remotely for the day, consider doing so. But if not, let your manager know that you're not feeling well and tell them when you plan to return. If your company requires a doctor's note, you can start that process by calling or messaging your primary care physician.
If you have a family member who is really sick, such as your child, parent, or spouse, and you need to take care of them, this is a legitimate reason to call out of work. For example, if you have a young child who is sick and home from school, you probably need to be there to take care of them (and to watch them). Likewise, if your elderly parent needs help because they're ill with a fever, you'll need to be there to care for them. Or if your spouse broke their arm and you need to stay home with them to help them around the house/feed and bathe them, then that's a reasonable reason for needing to stay home.
Just because you’re not showing symptoms right now, doesn’t mean you can’t pass COVID to others. If you’ve tested positive for COVID, you shouldn’t be going into work (or out in public at all). If someone you live with or have had close contact with has tested positive, consider CDC, local, and employer guidelines as well as your vaccination status, before going into the office. You should also refer to these recommendations when deciding when to return to work. If you’re not symptomatic, you can offer to work remotely as well.
Sometimes, you just need a day off to watch out for yourself. Perhaps you're burnt out from work or home life and you need some time to catch up on sleep, run some errands or just relax. It's perfectly acceptable to need a day for yourself. While a day off isn’t going to turn around your mental health completely, taking extra time for yourself can help you refresh and recharge — so you can show up for yourself, and for work, better.
Perhaps the babysitter never showed up and you've been scrambling to find another one all morning but you just can't find anyone to drop in at the last minute, or maybe your children have a snow day. No matter the reason, you'll need to stay home to watch them—and that's a pretty legit reason to miss work at short notice.
A family emergency is typically an unexpected event that affects the health and/or safety of your family members (your parents, children, spouse, etc.) or other close loved ones. So if you have a family emergency — for example, your child breaks a bone, your elderly parent falls down, your spouse crashes the car on their way to work or something else entirely, you have a good reason to miss work or leave immediately if the day already started. Just let your boss know you can't come in because of a family emergency, and feel free to elaborate once you return.
Sometimes, house emergencies happen, too. For example, perhaps you accidentally started a small fire while making breakfast. Or the boiler broke. Or there was a gas leak. Or you found bed bugs all over the bedroom and the inspector is on their way over. These are all legitimate house emergencies that warrant a day off from work. Feel free to send your boss a picture of the situation as proof. If not, an email (and some advance notice, if possible) will suffice.
Commuting complications are, oftentimes, not in your control. Perhaps the bus broke down, or the train was experiencing delays or there was an accident on your route and there's bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or you might have trouble with your own car. At some point (if it's taking hours to get to work), you might need to call your boss and let them know that you're not able to make it on that day.
The death of a family member or close friend is tragic and employers are generally understanding when this occurs. Many companies offer bereavement leave that will allow you to take some time off from work to deal with any arrangements you need to make and give you time to grieve. Be sure to check your company’s policy and let your employer know how long you will be away from work.
Many medical facilities are only open during regular business hours so you may need to take off from work to make it there. You might also need to call out to take a pet, child, or anyone else you’re a caretaker for to a medical or veterinary appointment. And it’s not just medical care—you might also need to schedule an appointment with a realtor, lawyer, child’s school, or another professional service during your usual work hours.
There are plenty of other legitimate reasons to call out from work on short notice or otherwise, such as:
You're expecting a major delivery.
You have visitors.
You're donating blood.
You're observing a religious holiday that your company doesn’t close for.
Your WiFi or power is out (and you work from home).
You have a major family event.
You want to use your vacation days.
Some reasons for missing work aren’t going to come off as professional—especially on short notice. When you give advance notice, how you spend your allotted PTO is up to you, and you’re not obligated to give your boss all the details. However, if you’re calling out the day of or a day or two before, some reasons will just come off as unprofessional reasons to leave your boss and coworkers in the lurch, such as:
You’re too tired.
It’s a beautiful day.
It’s too cold.
It’s too hot.
You’re going on a last-minute two-week trip to the Bahamas.
You need to miss work for something you would’ve known about in advance (like a wedding, holiday, vacation, or event you bought tickets to.)
Your dog fell asleep on your lap and now you can’t get up.
What is a good excuse to miss work?
A good excuse to miss work is a real one.. Attending a job interview is also a real reason to miss work, but if you’re more comfortable with calling it a personal day or saying you have an appointment—neither of those is dishonest.
What do you say when you call off work?
When you call off work, you should call or email your boss and let them know that you're sorry but that you won't be able to make it into work that day and give a reason without being overly detailed. If possible, you should have a plan already for who is going to cover you and how you're going to catch up on the work when you get back before you reach out.
What are good reasons to call off work on short notice?
Whenever possible, you should give your employer and anyone who’d have to cover for you ample notice before you take off work and leave a plan on what might need to be done while you’re out. But you’re a human being with a full life and sometimes things will come up without warning. Any of the reasons above are legitimate reasons to call out on short notice—as long it’s not something you would’ve known about in advance.
What if I work remotely?
After 2020, hopefully no one has to be told that remote work is still work, and there will be reasons you need to call out even when your office is in your bedroom. While you might not need to take the day off to wait for the plumber, you still need time to rest and recover when you’re sick, for example. And you still deserve a vacation and mental health days as well.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,
Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.
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