Having to call in sick may not be your fault, but you can ease the problem
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
We all have to do it at one point, and while calling in sick can leave others with more to do, there are ways in which you can help ease the situation. (Many of these tips come from my first book "Be A Great Manager Now").
1. You’re allowed to be sick – and not all sicknesses have physical symptoms. If you have had struggles with your mental health, or you are feeling burnt out, please do not let this make you fear calling in.
2. Let your boss know as soon as possible. While sometimes sickness can be very last minute, if you know in advance (eg a hospital appointment), giving as much notice as possible can assist with the workplace remaining as efficient as possible in your absence.
3. (however) While being sick is not your fault, you can perhaps do something to help solve the problem:
- If you are able to arrange cover, try to do so – that way you will have offered a solution, or at least shown willing if you can suggest who might be able to step in.
- If you can, indicate when your employer may expect you back – remember you will often need a “fit note” if you are expecting to be off for more than 7 days
- If you can (and the job is such that this would help) – prepare work/instructions as to where the person covering for you can find what they need to do your job.
- If you are up for working from home, then make the offer – but only do so if you can fulfil it.
- Be polite, apologise if you feel it appropriate, but also, save the above, keep the conversation brief.
4. Make sure the right people know. Check your contract/sickness procedure to make sure that you have notified all the correct people with regards to being off sick.
5. Taking compassionate leave/carer days are also allowed. While you may not need nor wish to disclose all the details, you may need to give a brief overview of who you are caring for/taking leave for and the reason why.
6. You may wish to outline and practice the call. Write down what you need to say and follow that – if you have to write a “script”. The only proviso I have with scripting is that it can cause more anxiety if you feel like you are not following it, so bullet points are probably a more useful tool, and as speaking is a “performance skill” you might want to rehearse out loud first…and if you are worried about sounding “scripted” or “rehearsed”, there is no shame in explaining that you are nervous about having to call in sick because you hate letting people down.
7. Then take the time and care you need to recover fully. You will not help anyone, least of all yourself, if you try and micro-manage or impede your recovery through continuing to work. Your job is now to get better!!
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt