Calling (or, really, emailing) out of work can feel uncomfortable. You likely worry that your boss will fire you for daring to come down with the flu or having the audacity to contract a stomach bug that prohibits you from coming into the office. You might be concerned that you'll lose your job for taking the time off to take care of yourself, as you might worry that your absence will make you seem unreliable.
The fact is that people get sick. We're all only human, and life happens. Sometimes, you need to take the day to recuperate. And, frankly, if you're actually sick, no one in their right mind will want you spreading your contagious germs around the office anyway.
The chances that your boss will actually refuse your ask to stay home while sick are slim to none (unless, of course, they have a very valid reason for absolutely needing you at the office or you have a history of, ahem, playing hooky). Likewise, the chances that your boss will actually penalize you for catching a cold or eating bad sushi for dinner last night aren't very high — most people will understand because they've been there, themselves.
Besides, you may have sick days you're entitled to use. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average number of paid sick days is eight for any employee of at least a year. That number increases to 11 for an employee with 25 years of experience with the same company. (Remember that this is a blanket estimate; sick days very by employer!)
So what do you say in an email to your boss when you need to call out sick? We've got you covered.
First things first, let your boss know that you're sick as soon as possible. Give them as much notice as you can so that you and your boss (and your team!) can work together to figure out how to handle your absence if necessary. Besides, notice is respectful and appreciated, regardless of whether or not your absence will take a huge toll on the day's work.
Next, when letting your boss know that you're sick and can't come into work, know that less is more. Seriously, spare your boss the details about your snotty nose and/or unpleasant bowel habits. No one needs to know what you're death bed is looking like — they just need to know what it's feeling like, which is why you can't make it into work.
You don't need to send a super long email asking your boss for their permission to stay home while sick. Rather, you need to let your boss know that you came down with a fever and you're really not feeling well enough to come into the office. If you need to and can, offer to provide a doctor's note for proof.
What's perhaps more important than what's wrong with you, however, is what you're going to do about it. Don't just leave your boss and colleagues hanging in your absence. Reach out to your team to see if you can get some coverage and/or delegate some of your tasks for the day. If you can't, at the very least, have a plan for how you're going to catch up when you get back to the office — and reassure your boss that you have your workload under control. You might be out for the count, but the show must go on, and the responsible thing to do would be to ensure that it can and will without you.
Writing a sick leave email can be short and sweet and to the point. Again, don't get into the nitty-gritty of how your morning stuck in the bathroom is going. Just make your boss aware of your situation and ask them to use a sick day to take care of it.
To follow up your ask, let them know of your plan to take care of your work — whether how you're going to delegate your work or how you're going to tackle it when you get back to the office.
Whatever you do, don't start making a thousand excuses or oversharing. You don't want your boss to think that you're lying about being sick, and your boss probably doesn't have time or care to hear your sob story (sorry, but it's true!). So keep your email clear and direct, as informative as it needs to be, and reassuring.
Here's an example email:
Hi [Boss's Name],
I'm not feeling well today and will need to take the day off to visit the doctor and rest. I hope to be feeling better by tomorrow, but I will keep you in the loop after my appointment. In the meantime, [Coworker's Name] has offered to help out in covering my shift today. I appreciate your understanding.
The subject line for your email calling out sick should be clear and professional. Subject lines like "[Your Name] - Calling in Sick" or "Not Feeling Well Today" can work well. Your boss will be able to immediately tell what your email is about before even opening it, and it will hopefully catch their attention quicker than a vague subject line so you won't have to worry about them missing your email.
Texting in sick is a lot like emailing in sick in that you're not picking up the phone to call your boss. While an email might be more professional, according to some bosses, a text might be more efficient and offer quicker notice since most people keep their phones on them.
Here are some text-in-sick examples (compared with these email examples!) to help you:
With all that said, here are some quick tips for your sick day email:
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, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
Our employer partners are actively recruiting women! Update your profile today.