Work-Life Balance

How to Write a Sick Day Email

Written by Peter Jones

You woke up feeling wretched. You just can’t go to work. But you also don’t want your boss or coworkers to think you’re slacking off with your feet up, watching The View. The accepted way to communicate the message that you’re staying home is to send an email to your boss. But what to say?

First of all, you want to make sure to send your email well advance of your start time, lest it look like you just overslept and could not be bothered coming in late.

Then, just follow these 3 simple guidelines.

Keep it Short

Keep it lean and mean. And resist the urge to overshare. Your boss does not want to hear the details of your phlegmy cough or stomach flu. A simple “flu” or “food poisoning” or even “migraine headache” will suffice. If you’re taking a mental health or personal day, and your company has a policy allowing for that, you can say, “I’m taking a sick day to attend to a personal matter.” And leave it at that.

Be Clear on Your Availability

It’s important to let your boss know whether she can expect you to check emails while you’re out of the office. If you’re too sick, just add a line making it clear that you will be totally offline (though, do give a phone number at which you can be reached if any emergencies arise). If working remotely is an option for you, just say, “I’m staying home today, but will be available by email (or will be working remotely).”

Make Sure You Have an In-Office Cover

If you have any pressing projects or deadlines, or you serve a crucial role, make sure to name a qualified colleague who clients or coworkers can turn to for guidance instead. Bonus points if you reach out to that person before you give their name to your boss! If you’re working on a team project, consider shooting an email to your other team members, as well, in addition to your supervisor; it’s always nice for them to get the heads up directly from you.

Finally, If you have it in you and want to avoid the guilt of idleness, spend a half an hour shoring up any loose ends, referring people to other parties, and setting yourself an out-of-office message so people know not to expect a prompt response. Then go right back to bed and get better already!

About the author

Peter Jones