Heather K Adams
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For most of us, even when we have a valid reason to miss work, we can still find it difficult to actually call off. Be it embarrassment, a sense of duty or just not knowing what to say, we hesitate.

But listen, working while sick isn't good for you, or your coworkers. And because we all have lives, there are other perfectly reasonable excuses to miss work. That's just life, and it's okay to call off when you need to deal with it.

What makes an excuse to miss work valid?

Anything that legitimately disrupts your ability to do your work, be it physical or mental, is a valid excuse to miss work. Various life factors that need to be handled during work hours also count (see below).

How do I call in sick to work?

For most companies, a simple phone call or email is enough. And it doesn't have to be a long conversation. Simply state that you won't be in, and why.

If you need to arrange for a coworker to cover your shift, or your assistant to handle some of your work, handle these details before officially notifying your boss. That way they know they won't have to deal with any of those details. And remember to thank everyone who helps pick up the slack!

3 tips for writing a good excuse email.

Being able to dash off a quick email might seem awesome, but there are still a few do's and don'ts involved.

1. Be direct.

No need to ramble and take up more of your employer's time than necessary. Tell her you won't be in, and why. Let her know if you're able to do any work from home, or what details you've covered already at work. Anything else is probably unnecessary.

2. Be sorry, and be thankful.

Recognize that you not being there will be an inconvenience. Say you're sorry, and thank them for their understanding.

3. BCC.

Make sure you send this email to everyone who needs to be notified. Keeping everyone in the loop will help them have a smoother day, even if they're one person down.

Good excuses to miss work.

Here's a list of real reasons (and some simple scripts) for when you're running late, need to leave early or need to miss work altogether.

  • Illness: "I feel terrible. I won't be in/will be leaving early today."
  • Car trouble: "My car won't start. I'll be in as soon as I can."
  • Family emergency
  • Childcare issue
  • Doctor's appointment: For any of these last three, simply labeling your reason ("I have a ___") is enough.
  • Other appointment: Unless pressed for more info, "I have an appointment on the 17th and will need to leave early" is fine.
  • Medical procedure
  • Someone else's illness: Make it clear you're the only one able to care for this person today.
  • Mental health day/s: "Not feeling well" is a good umbrella term for when you're simply unable to function normally.
  • Stress: "I've had a lot going on. I'm going to take a day off to get some rest."
  • Snow day, kids' edition
  • Snow day, no kids' edition: "I don't feel safe driving in this weather. I'll do as much work from home as I can today."
  • Household issues: such as emergency repairs or maintenance.
  • Moving
  • Miscellaneous moving-related issues: The old "waiting for the cable guy" excuse is still a thing. Let work know you'll be in as soon as possible.

Tips for excusing yourself.

Even the cleanest of consciences can feel guilty when it comes to missing work. That's the first thing you'll need to work on. Recognize that you have a life, things happen and you totally deserve to take the time you need to deal with them.

Once you're all up on your self worth (you do not need to be the head cold martyr of the office), work on your calling off skills. The best excuses are true, obviously, and the truest are short and to the point. "I won't be in today. I don't feel well/have an emergency/etc." sounds good because it is good.

Bad excuses to miss work.

Listen: if you're going to lie, do a little better than this...

  • Hangover: Even if it's real, don't use this
  • Cramps: Unless you have a medical condition
  • Any kind of beauty appointment
  • Your fish/cat/dog died (again)
  • Your grandfather died (um, again)
  • You died (again?)
  • Aliens, zombies or similar: Missing work would be the least of your concerns, during an apocalypse
  • You broke up with your SO (significant other)
  • Your friend broke up with her SO
  • You were shanghaied by sailors and are now on a boat
  • Ingrown toenail
  • Bad haircut: and bangs seemed like such a good idea...
  • Had a fight with your mom
  • National Call-Off-Work Day
  • Anything too elaborate and obviously fake: Big Foot did not break in and steal your alarm clock.

Can you get fired for calling off?

Maybe. Habitual unexcused absences can definitely be cause for termination. But you won't be punished for using actual sick days. Just make sure not to abuse them. Only call off when you really need to.

FAQ's

Now that you have a good idea what is, and isn't, a good excuse to miss work, here are the answers to a few common questions and concerns about calling off.

What should I do if I get caught in a lie?

Sometimes you just need to play hooky. But if you get busted, you're going to have to face the consequences. 'Fess up, and don't try to lie. That never works out, in the end.

How can I ask to come in late/leave early?

Just like calling off, state your need and your reason. Be brief. "I have an appointment Wednesday, so I'll be in late" or "I'm sorry, I don't feel well. I'm going to leave early today" are all you really need.

Do I need/how do I get a doctor's excuse?

Your boss will tell you if you need an excuse when you call in sick. Ask your doctor to fill one out for you during your appointment, then bring it to work whenever you return.

How much notice do I need to give?

As much as possible. Obviously sometimes you just wake up in the morning feeling awful, but if you have an appointment or event upcoming, let work know as soon as you have all the details.

How do I take an extended leave of absence?

Talk to your boss about what's going on in your life, and why you need time off. Chances are she'll work with you as much as she can. However, understand your company might not be able to hold your position indefinitely. 

Final thought

We all have lives. No matter how much of a workaholic you are, you're still going to get sick or move or have an appointment that falls during work hours. It's okay to miss work when you need to. Just make sure your reasons are valid, and that you call off in a neat, brief and timely fashion.

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Heather Adams is a writer, and the creator of the speckled note.