The Unspoken Rules of Calling in Sick
You wake up one morning with a sore throat and you realize that although that pending deadline needs to reach your boss’s desk by the end of the day, you have no energy to get out of bed.
So, what do you do?
You proceed to your contact list and begin your preparations to call in sick.
After all, it’s better to take a day or two off rather than prolong the flu, right? While calling in sick is a sensible procedure, you need to take into consideration whether your boss and co-workers are going to be fine with your absence.
One-third of U.S. employees have faked their illness and hence, it’s necessary to come up with a good “stay home” strategy to ensure you don’t step on anyone toes.
ARE YOU REALLY SICK OR IS IT JUST A BAD MONDAY?
First things first! Get out of bed and locate the trusty thermometer that you just can’t seem to find when you are under the weather.
Recording your body temperature is one of the quickest ways to finding out if you are indeed sick and it’s not just all in your head. Once you’ve noticed a higher temperature than normal, it’s time to put things into perspective.
A running nose, sniffles, or a cough is often the first tell-tale signs that you are going to be sick. It’s important to never mistake a seasonal allergy to the actual flu.
While the flu is contagious and it’s often best to rest at home rather than to infect everyone in your office, a seasonal allergy isn’t worth taking a sick day and once the usual body ache begins to subside, you will start to feel better.
According to CareerBuilder’s Annual survey, in 2017 a staggering 40-percent of workers have called in sick when they have been in the pink of health. Among the many excuses given by the participants, here are the top dubious reasons for calling in sick by the report —
- Called in sick for having too much food
- Took the day off for believing themselves to be deathly ill
- Experiencing traumatic stress and panic attacks
- Felt under the weather for visiting a funeral
- Unable to find their car keys
It comes as no surprise as to why your boss could suspect you’re lying when you are indeed sick with the kind of excuses that are listed above.
When calling in sick always ensure you have a valid reason and relevant proof, like medical documents, to back up your claims post your sick day period.
This is to build your credibility and trustworthiness with your colleagues and boss.
Visiting the emergency room or scheduling a doctor’s visit should be among your top priorities when calling in sick.
If you truly believe you’ve caught a contagious disease, a medical expert can help you get over your illness at a faster pace by prescribing the necessary medication. You’ve also got a doctor’s note to prove your leave of absence and your boss will have a much better time believing your sick tale.
This interactive video shows how to get well soon which means significantly fewer days spent at home from work.
5 RULES TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CALLING IN SICK
1. Check with Your Team First
If there’s an important project on the line, it’s necessary to check the reactions of your team.
If you’ve managed to trigger a response of caution from them, it may be alright to call in sick but if they find themselves panicking over the project situation, you may need more coaxing to ensure things work out fine in the end.
Explain your situation in quick and easy conversations such as —
“Hello Mark, I hope the day’s found you in good health, unfortunately, the same can’t be said for me. If it isn’t too much to ask, can you please fill me up on the day’s proceedings and redirect my visiting clients back to my office number. Thanks for taking the trouble and I hope to be back at my physical and mentalpeak.”
“Hey Nancy, I won’t be able to come to work for a couple of days as I am feeling under the weather. Do share the news with the rest of the team and let them know that I truly regret the decision. Please do share the day’s discussion with me post your work hours so I can update myself on the project’s status. Thanks, wishing you the best!”
Your colleagues will legitimately feel sorry for your condition and sympathize with you when you can provide them with a valid reason.
Keep in mind that it’s considered a professional courtesy to update your colleagues that you aren’t showing up for work at the start of the day to ensure they plan out a strategy when dealing with your absence.
Your co-workers are bound to feel annoyed when they come to know of your absence without any intimation from your end.
Seeker demonstrates the reasons why shouldn’t go to work when you’re in this informative video.
2. Focus on Getting Well
There is no way to know when you’re going to fall sick or to calculate exactly how long the flu would last.
However, you could take the necessary precautions of minimizing the days you’re in bed by ensuring you get treated for your condition at the earliest. Eliminate the stress factor and focus on getting as much rest as you can.
Here are a few short tips to get you back on track —
Get More Sleepy Time
It goes without saying that when you’re sick the fastest way to the road to recovery is to get some quality shut-eye.
Depriving your body of sleep can cause strain to your body and in the long run, you extend your leave of absence.
Consume Protein-rich Foods
Protein provides our body with muscle recovery aid and is generally a great way to gain nourishment when sick.
Often, a sick person can’t consume a lot of carbohydrates due to their appetite taking a hit, that’s when a light protein snack can do wonders for your body.
Drink Plenty of Water
When ill, your body tends to dehydrate a lot and a loss of water can inhibit your ability to heal from the sickness.
H2O is often the best way to beat an illness as hydrating yourself often replenishes lost fluids and is a quick way to get back to your prime shape.
Listen to Soothing Music
Music offers a gateway to the mind to get away from the constant stress of everyday work life.
Similarly, when you’re sick it’s a great way to pass your time without stressing your eyes by watching television or spending long hours on the computer. Setup a great playlist or a podcast and gently rest your eyes.
Wear Loose Clothing and Try Over the Counter Medication
If it’s a high fever you’re better off getting yourself checked at the doctor before self-medicating.
On the other hand, if you’ve contracted a common cold, wearing loose clothing can help disperse body heat better and make you comfortable and anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen are recommended.
When you do get back to your office, it’s important to practice safety measures to prevent infecting others. Rob Donofrio, a microbiologist at NSF International suggests “Proper handwashing with soap and warm water is still, by far, the best way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Similarly, disinfecting common areas like the office kitchen or eating area, copy machine and printer can be crucial to keeping germs at bay.”
3. Handover your Duties to a Trusted Co-worker
Undoubtedly, every employee is unique to the company and there are tasks that only they can complete as they understand the procedure and the basic operation of the project.
Sickness, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a warning and hence, you are bound to fall ill during the busiest time of the year. In these cases, it’s always convenient to have a fellow colleague, that you can trust to lead the way in your absence.
It’s important to follow up with your colleague by either — phone or email.
Layout a plan for them and utilize as little of their time as possible.
After all, they are doing you a favor by working additional time than they normally would. As a goodwill gesture, consider offering your co-worker a gift after you recover or better yet, offer to switch places with them during their sick leave.
Just because you’re ill, doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions from your home.
Create direct reports and ensure you setup a procedure ahead of time to train one of your colleagues on the most high-priority tasks that need to be done even during your absence
. Being prepared beforehand can save you a bunch of last minute requests that your coworkers may not be able to fulfill.
4. Keep Yourself Available Through Phone and Email
Unfortunately, being sick doesn’t pause real life.
This means that your clients are bound to be surprised to not find you in your usual workspace and would undoubtedly be ticked off that you didn’t notify them beforehand.
Hence, it’s necessary to keep an open line of communication even if you’ve taken a sick leave to ensure operations are running smoothly.
If you’re sick and are unable to attend the phone, ask a family friend or member to write a formal email on your behalf and forward it to all your contacts in one go.
At the very least, you’ve managed to notify them and there won’t be any awkward confrontations the next time you’re back in the office.
A wonderful tip is to create drafts for various reasons in your office emails and store them beforehand. When the time comes you can simply select the appropriately filled draft and hit send to all your clients and this saves you time and effort.
If you’re able to take phone calls, ensure you create a priority list with the high-priority tasks at the top and the low priority ones at the bottom.
You can start calling the most important clients and explaining your situation to postpone important events and meetings.
You can take a short break after you’ve gone through the most important calls of the day and conduct the low-priority ones after you’re well rested. In this way, you can still manage to work while being sick and increase your efficiency by 50%.
5. Maintain a Doctors’ Note as a Sick Leave Practice
Doctors’ notes are valuable pieces of information that can enable you to prove to your boss that you were indeed sick and were suffering from a severe ailment. It’s important to receive medical care and ensure that you request a note from the doctor to ensure your boss fully understands that you aren’t staging a magnificent performance.
Unknown to many employees is the fact that when you sign the contract for a new job, you’re missing an important instruction in the written decorum of the company. Any employer can request a doctor’s note to validate your sick leave and while many managers might not really need to, it’s always worth noting down that when requested, it’s within your obligatory right to provide them with one.
If you feel you are being unjustly scrutinized or perhaps your boss is bad mouthing you for taking a sick leave, you can approach the ADA(The Americans with Disabilities Act).
The ADA helps employees with a physical or mental condition to claim their right to a sick leave and has established many laws for the benefit of the employees. It’s worth fighting for your right.
AVOID THESE 2 IMPORTANT THINGS WHEN CALLING IN SICK
1. Don’t Fake It
Faking a cough or two just to call in sick is something most managers are used to.
If you need a day to get away from the hectic responsibilities of your work, come clean and tell your manager about it.
You will even be praised and be given the much-needed day or two off. Staging an act that could very well win you an Oscar is something that is a turn off to your team and your managers.
Don’t pretend to overdo a cough on the phone when calling in sick, there’s nothing that says FAKE in big black bold letters even if you’re genuinely sick.
Unless you’ve been tasked to do a formal call-in, stick to emails to mention your status. You can utilize one of the many pre-created drafts to send over to your boss and team while providing you with several minutes of valuable rest time.
Here a few things to keep in mind when making a call or sending an email about your sickness —
Keep the Conversation Short and Polite
You don’t need to prove to your boss that you’re sick while on phone, the tone says it all.
Simply demonstrate your gratitude to your boss and appreciate the understanding they have in you.
This is how a professional usually gets a satisfactory sick leave without further questions. Don’t go overboard explaining your condition as this plays no role at the moment and can be communicated after your illness.
E-mail or Phone? Which is the better option
If you’ve got an extremely bad fever and are low on energy levels, a simple draft should suffice to explain your reason for the absence.
If you’ve lined up a big project or a critical meeting, then a phone call is a must to convey your instructions on how to phase out the rest of the plan.
A practical rule of the thumb is — if it’s just another regular day at the office with no priorities in line, choose email. For everything else, make the call. Don’t ever send a text, this is considered extremely rude and unprofessional.
Mondays and Fridays may seem the most suspicious days to take a leave
While being sick is not something you’ve got a control over, the days that you pick as your sick leave can seem like you’re taking an extended vacation.
2. Don’t Use Your Sick Days as Vacation Leave and Refrain from Silly Excuses
Sick days are valuable resources for every professional and they have been allotted by companies to ensure their employees get time off to recover.
Using sick leaves to extend a weekend into a long leave of absence is unacceptable. The worst that could happen is when you indeed fall sick, there won’t be any left to make use of and in such an event it can cause you a great deal of anxiety.
Here are some of the excuses that you should never call upon when calling in sick —
The Hangover Drama
A hangover isn’t a sickness, it’s a self-imposed condition caused by your inability to control last night’s drinking spree.
Hence, it’s on you and not on the company if you suffer from the effects of a long party the night before.
The simplistic rule to follow here is to consider your off days and save one day as backup such as Sunday to recover from a bad hangover.
In short, choose Friday or Saturday for long parties and use Sunday as a day to recover so you’re ready to tackle the infamous Monday without an excuse.
The Weather is Everything but Sunny
Severe weather is another common excuse that employees tend to throw around to ensure they get a paid sick leave.
Unless there is a typhoon, hurricane, or blizzard ravaging across your city and the roads are closed off, there’s absolutely no reason to take a precious day off from work.
If there is a severe weather alert, your company is bound to consider it as a major health hazard and call an emergency day off by shooting out emails to all the team members. You don’t need to decide on it.
Need to Recharge my Mental Health
Unless you’re the employee of the year and you are practically burnt out from working day in and day out, you aren’t getting past your manager with this excuse.
In fact, you will lay claim to the fact that you aren’t a serious employee to take into consideration when promoting and you’ll lose all the respect earned from your team members.
Recharging your mental health is just another term for “vacation leave” and should be used only during your vacation package. However, if you’ve recently lost a loved one, it’s understandable to take a day or two off from work to grieve, most companies let their employees off the hook without further questions.
SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WORKING FROM HOME INSTEAD OF COMING IN?
Many bosses usually frown upon the act of an employee calling in sick. To minimize any negative feeling towards you, you can always choose to work at home if your body is able to. Although it’s extremely important to get adequate rest to ensure you don’t prolong your sickness and in turn extending your sick leave.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you’ve got about a 20% chance of falling sick in a year.
Considering that’s a 2 in 10 chances that you will experience a sick day in a year, you’re better off conducting yourself from home when you are able to. It’s not always advisable to arm yourself with cough drops and head on down to the office and infect others and cause a massive crisis-like situation to the company that you work for.
Times like these call for the presence of mind — How do you work without being in the office?
Complete offline tasks such as creating reports and address your clients and make cold calls from the comfort of your home. Your office isn’t necessarily your workplace, your home can convert as a makeshift office during your sick days.
By working from home, you show your selfless dedication to your manager and team and show that you don’t like taking sick days if you aren’t committed to solving the challenges of the company. This also motivates you to be efficient always, including in your sickness.
Although your physical being may be suffering from the constant loss of energy, your mental balance can stay as focused as if you were at your office.
Try training yourself to work during a sickness on a voluntary basis and you can assure yourself that you will be able to win the respect of your peers as well as understand the term “being efficient even in your sleep”.
A QUICK CHECK LIST TO FOLLOW WHEN CALLING IN SICK
Here’s a quick checklist that you can print and carry around with you or pin up to ensure you don’t forget the things you should be doing when you’re sick. You could also add your own custom bullet points to the list.
- Call/Email your team and managers at the break of dawn or at the start of the day
- Ensure all your clients are being redirected to your phone and email
- Save drafts beforehand explaining why you can’t make it to the office
- Fix a doctor’s appointment and ensure you request a doctor’s note
- Follow-up with your trusted colleague at different points of the day
- Keep your conversation as limited as possible when conversing with your co-workers by phone
- Complete tasks as best as you can from home but only if you’re able to
- When in doubt between rest and work — Choose the former and get better quick
Here’s a useful infographic to consider when you are confused whether to call in sick or not.
And before you are done asking the most important question, the answer is — Yes! You can get fired for repeated faults on faking sickness. So, don’t for one moment utilize the sick leave for a grand vacation in Rome, you may end up jobless if your employer finds out and the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave ACT,) will not be able to protect you from regaining your old job back.
There you are the grand rules to follow when committing yourself to a sick leave and it’s truly a disastrous experience to be sick, but we wish you better days and a happy working environment in all the days to come!
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