3 Tips For Successfully Calling In Sick (Even If You’re Not)

By Ryan Morris - Dec. 1, 2017

Calling in sick is a tough decision to make.

Regardless of whether you’re legitimately sick, choosing to take sick leave can be fraught.

What if your boss doesn’t believe you? In the case of liars trying to play hooky, what if your boss sees right through you?

For some, these questions pop up every single time they ask for time off.

And in their defense, it could happen — your boss just might not believe you, in which case you could be in hot water.

So how do you ask off without looking like a liar — even if you absolutely are one?

We’ve got a few tips to help you navigate this potentially dangerous situation and get you the day off that you deserve (or perhaps the one that you don’t — no judgements here).


1. How To Call in Sick

When calling in sick, it’s important to remember that your work for the day doesn’t just disappear because you can’t do it.

Either you have to push it back a day, or someone else has to do it, or (worst of all, from your employer’s perspective) the work just doesn’t get done that day and can’t be made up by anyone else.

It’s not your fault that you were or are sick, but it’s always possible that your absence will nevertheless have a negative effect on someone you work with, depending on the nature of your work.

For this reason, there’s a few things you should do when you call in sick to make sure you’re being conscientious of your boss and your coworkers:

  • Let them know as soon as possible. If you wake up feeling bad, then email, call, or send a Slack message (however your work tends to communicate) the very moment you realize you shouldn’t come to work. If you’re feeling bad the day before, give your boss a heads-up and let them know about the possibility of you missing work the next day.
  • Try not to lie, if you can help it. We’ll go into good or bad reasons you can give your boss for calling in sick, but in a nutshell, a bad reason to give someone for missing work is any kind of outright lie. Eventually, people are going to catch on, and they’re going to hold it against you once they do. If you really need to take a day off but you aren’t *sick*, per se, then it’s usually better to just say so.
  • Offer to make up the lost work however you can. If you’re well enough and the work can be done remotely, offer to work from home. Otherwise, make sure that there’s some sort of plan in place for the work getting done either later on or else by someone else.

2. Good and Bad Reasons to Give Your Boss

There are lots of ways to approach telling your boss that you can’t come in to work, but at some point or another, you’re going to have to give them a reason.

It should go without saying that not all of these reasons are as good as the others.

Here are a few examples of both good and bad reasons to give your boss for taking off work:

Good Reasons

  • If you’re contagious. This is the big one — if you’re at all likely to get your coworkers sick by coming into work, it’s imperative that you stay home, even if physically you feel mostly okay.
  • If your sickness is causing you discomfort to the point where you can no longer perform your work duties, regardless of how contagious you are.
  • If the symptoms of your illness would be particularly disruptive to your coworkers, such as vomiting, severe sneezing/snotting, severe coughing, etc.

Bad Reasons

  • If your illness is neither contagious nor particularly disruptive of work duties. In those cases, you’re typically expected to soldier on.
  • If your illness is somehow artificial or self-inflicted, such as if it’s a hangover or something similar.
  • If your illness or its symptoms are entirely fictitious. Again, you really want to avoid lying if you can avoid it.

3. Should You Take Sick Days When You Aren’t Sick?

At some point in your work life, you’re going to wake up nice and healthy, but, for whatever reason, with the strong urge to call out sick.

They’ll be no good reason why you shouldn’t go to work that day — at least, no reason that your boss is likely to accept.

But maybe you’ve been healthy all year. Maybe it’s been awhile since you took a day off work.

Maybe you just really, really, really don’t want to go in.

Is it a good idea to use your sick days for personal days?

It depends:

  • For one thing, it depends on how your company classifies time off. Some lump sick days and vacation days together, in which case calling in for any amount of time off is pretty much the same process. If this is the case, then you really don’t need to lie about being sick — after all, the process will be pretty much the same either way.
  • It’s also important to know if you’re the kind of person who already takes off sick days frequently, whether for real, imagined, or outright false reasons. The more you take off time, the more likely your boss is to be suspicious that you’re doing so for illegitimate reasons. If you genuinely need those days because you get sick a lot, using them for no good reason will only bring you trouble.
  • You also want to keep in mind what your boss’ opinion of mental health days is. Some people believe that they should be classified as being sick days, while others think they should be vacation days.
  • Above all, just bear in mind that using sick days for non-sick reasons is a risk — how big of a risk depends on you and your personal work situation, and your decision to use sick days in this way should be calculated accordingly.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all we’ve got for this one — again, the biggest thing to keep in mind when asking for sick days off is that it depends on two major things.

The first is your company’s policy toward sick days, and what it recognizes as a “sick day” in the first place.

The second is your relationship with your boss, especially pertaining to how many sick days you’ve taken off so far.

At the end of the day, we have only one thing to say for people who are looking to abuse their company’s sick day policy to their own non-sick benefit:

Do it. Playing hooky rocks and it will make you look cool to all your coworkers.

They definitely will not grow to resent your increased absence, or notice the uptick in your social media usage on your days off.

Anywho, best of luck to you! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

Tips on How to End a Cover Letter to Get the Job
3 Tips For “Picking Someone’s Brain” (Asking and Answering)
3 Tips for Answering the Interview Question “Are You Willing to Travel?”

Ryan Morris


Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

Related posts