Taking a Sick Day 101

As much as we take care of ourselves, hit the gym, eat healthy and indulge in moderation when it comes to booze, we are not superhuman and even the fittest get sick from time to time. It always seems to come at a horrible time, too, like in the middle of a deadline, on the day of a major presentation, meeting or evening charity event. Sometimes we need to make that panic-inducing call to tell our boss that – yikes – we won’t be in today. 

There is always that wonder, will he think I’m faking it? Maybe she thinks I am burnt out from all the additional work and I hope they don’t think I am hungover. Then there is the guilt of how your absence will affect others in your company. Here is how to execute and handle a sick day with grace.

Carefully Weigh the Risks and Benefits
If you know you won’t do any good being in the office and that your illness will affect your productivity, stay home. Remember as well that if you are infected with the plague and dragging yourself to work in a cloud of germs, your co-workers are going to wish you stayed home rather than infect them. At the same time, if you have a deal-maker meeting with clients or a presentation that has been scheduled for months and are feeling off but not necessarily incapacitated, it may be worth it to put on your game face and bare through it for an hour…then return home to your bed and sweats. 

Don’t Wait Until the 11th Hour to Call…and Call
The worst part of the sick day is the phone call. Don’t email – speak with your boss or superior on the phone as early in the day as possible. Emails look more suspect. With that said, keep the call short and to the point; nobody needs to know all the unglamorous details and the more you ramble the more it sounds contrived. The earlier you call, the better. That way, meetings can be rescheduled without too much interruption, and those affected will know before the actual work day even starts what they will have to alter in their day, if anything, to accommodate your absence.

Go to the Doctor or Walk-In Clinic
We are stubborn when it comes to our sicknesses and many YPs are guilty of thinking that his or her illness will miraculously clear on its own. It may, but not always. If you can pull yourself out of bed, take your laptop and go to the walk-in clinic. Either way, address the issue right away. Letting one day go by may be acceptable, but if you are still on what feels like your deathbed by the second day, take actions beyond home medications. Furthermore, you’ll have the visit on record, and, if your boss or human resources manager is reminiscent of a university professor with a late assignment, a doctor’s note may be required. 

Work, But Not too Hard
Don’t make yourself more sick and rundown by attempting to work from home in the same capacity that you would from the office. Do as much as you can – emails can be answered from bed and you can still arrange specific times to talk with your superiors and co-workers on the phone. With that said, focus on yourself and get better. Sleep, and don’t feel guilty about it – otherwise you will be waking up every 15 minutes to check your phone. Don’t use social media sites; anyone related to you professionally will have little patience if you can’t reply to an email but manage to comment on pictures on Facebook.

Come Back in Full Force
When you are feeling better and can return to work, come in a little early just to get yourself back on track. Be focused and stay later if you must. Even though the office likely knows that you were legitimately sick, don’t be so quick to request a vacation day in the immediate future. Apologize for the inconvenience you may have caused, but not over the top – it is nobody’s business why you were ill and, much like the initial phone call, over-explanation will do more harm than good.