Best Way to Call in Sick (+ Scheduling Tips for Managers)

A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. While it’s natural for team members to take time off when they’re not feeling well—your business still needs to be able to run smoothly when your staff is under the weather.

If you’re the one calling out sick or the team leader juggling employee absences, understanding common best practices for handling sick days is vital. Recognizing whether you can “power through” the illness, knowing how to properly notify management, and making schedule adjustments on the fly are all key to keeping your business operating normally without coming to a standstill.

Should you take a sick day?

When illness happens, deciding to take a sick day can be tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to spread contagious germs or struggle through working with symptoms. On the other hand, you may worry about letting coworkers down. So how do you make the call? Follow this process.

  • Evaluate your symptoms:  Are you likely to be contagious or feeling lousy? Listen to your body and take the time if you need it. 
  • Consider critical deadlines: Will your absence disrupt important projects or processes? If possible, give a warning so colleagues can cover for you.
  • Know your workplace’s sick day policy: Some companies offer flexible paid time off, while others have set limits. 

Use your best judgment, but avoid coming in when it feels like the right choice. If you won’t be able to do good work or if you could get someone else sick, it’s worth taking a sick day. 

Are you coming down with something?

Things get more complicated when you aren’t sure if you’re sick. Here’s what to do if you need help determining your next step. 

Recognize early signs of illness

Feeling a little under the weather? Fatigue and body aches may be signs that you’re coming down with something. Catching symptoms early can help you make proactive decisions. 

Decide if you should call in before symptoms get worse

Monitor yourself and note any of the telltale signs like coughing or chills. Consider your schedule and if powering through your regular work schedule seems wise. If you know you have sick time available, it may be in your best interest to call out as soon as you have symptoms. 

Rest to prevent a more serious illness

Though you may feel obligated to tough it out, resting at the first sign of sickness can help. Don’t hesitate to call in if your work involves contact with others. Your health and preventing the spread of anything contagious comes first. 

Consult a healthcare professional

If you’re not sure how serious your symptoms may be, touch base with a healthcare provider. Don’t wait until you are dealing with an illness that could keep you down for days. With treatment, you may bounce back quicker.

Sick days and the role of remote work

The option of working from home instead of taking a full sick day may allow you to be productive while avoiding contact. Use these tips to find out if remote work is the right choice.

Discuss remote work possibilities with your manager

Talk to your manager about working from home if you’re mildly sick. See if they are open to remote options. Also, be clear about how you feel and that you may still need to rest during this time. 

Assess your ability to perform tasks remotely

Consider what you can do from home. Is effort best spent on a specific set of tasks while you aren’t in your workplace? Deciding on this in advance can help you use your time well.

Get the necessary tools and documents

To work remotely while sick, confirm you can securely access any software, files, and equipment from home. Make your manager aware of any limitations that may impact what you can do. 

How to call in sick for work

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77% of the private sector workforce has paid sick time. How do you handle it when you have to call in sick? Take these steps to notify your manager and colleagues in a professional manner.

1. Choose the correct communication channels

First, check if your company has a specific protocol. Some expect a phone call to a manager, while others are fine with a quick email or text. Choose the method of communication preferred in your workplace. Above all, make sure to notify the appropriate person directly.

2. Know what to say (or write)

Even though calling in sick can be an awkward conversation, communicate clearly about your circumstances. Providing minimal but accurate details helps set expectations without oversharing private health information. 

For example, “I’m not feeling well and need to take a sick day to recover.” gives adequate notice without getting into diagnoses. If you send a message via text, ask your contact to confirm that they’ve received it.

3. Inform managers quickly

Making the call to take a sick day goes smoother when you notify your manager as early as possible. This allows them more time to adjust employee schedules or reassign urgent work. Give as much advance notice as you can. Also, explain how your sick day might impact time-sensitive projects. Being proactive shows professionalism.

4. Get teammates in the loop

If you’re able, give the team a heads-up about responsibilities that may need covering. Looping in colleagues eliminates confusion and keeps the team coordinated. Reach out to key players on your team to put them on the right track in your absence. 

Prepare for a return to work

What’s next after you take your sick day? This is how you can get on the path to a productive return. 

Update your team and manager about your status

Recovering from illness often means time away from your normal routine. To transition back, communicate with your team before your return. As soon as you can, provide your manager with an update on your status and your planned first day back.

Plan for catching up 

Discuss any pressing items that require immediate attention and develop a plan to complete them. If you’ve been out for a while on PTO, be realistic about what you can reasonably tackle in the first few days.

Reassess deadlines

You may need to reevaluate project timelines that shift in your absence. Set clear priorities and manage expectations. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or colleagues for help.

For managers: Scheduling and sick days

When employees call in sick, managers have decisions to make. You want to support your staff when they aren’t feeling well. However, you also need to keep operations running smoothly. Follow these tips to make that happen.

  • Inquire about their status: This helps you gauge if employees could be contagious or will need extended time off.
  • Assess the impact on work: Will critical projects or processes end up off track with an employee out? Gather this information as early as possible so you can plan coverage.
  • Check your sick day policy: Make sure you and your employees both understand what the workplace allows to stay in compliance.

Homebase payroll can help you manage your team’s PTO and pay them accordingly.

In general, encourage employees to stay home. Don’t penalize people for following policy and using time off. Instead, do your best to focus on how you can minimize disruption. 

How to call in sick: Final thoughts

With some coordination, your team can maintain productivity even with sick days. The priority is supporting health while meeting critical business needs. When everyone works together, you can achieve that balance.

Want to make sure your team always has the information they need? With a free mobile app and a built-in messenger tool, Homebase can help keep employees connected. Get started for free today!


How sick should I be to justify a sick day?

You should be sick enough that rest is necessary. Or if you’re contagious and could endanger coworkers.

Can I call in sick for mental health reasons?

Yes, mental health is as important as physical health, and you can take a sick day if needed.

Is it acceptable to call in sick via email?

Yes, if your company culture supports it and clear communication guidelines are in place.

How do I ensure my work is covered when I call in sick?

Prioritize urgent tasks, provide instructions for ongoing projects, and inform direct coworkers and your manager.

Can my employer deny my sick leave request?

This depends on company policy. The reason for sick leave denial should be consistent with company guidelines, and employee rights should be considered.

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