You’ve just settled down for the night but suddenly feel like the plague has taken over your body — you’re shivering, your eyes are sore, and your nose is red and raw. And you know that not even a good night’s sleep or a generous dose of cold medication can help you at this point. And, on top of everything else, just the thought of dragging yourself into work in the morning sounds a lot like physical torture. So, what should you do?
If you’re too ill to go to work, then the smartest thing to do is to stay at home and rest. But you’ll first need to inform your manager or supervisor of the situation, so that they can make all the appropriate arrangements to cover your absence — and the sooner, the better!
The most appropriate — and fastest — method to do this is sending your boss a quick email. If you’re unsure how to go about writing this email, though, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered.
Read on to find out how to write a sick day email, plus use our samples as a guide to write your own!
When to send your email
If you wake up in the morning feeling sick, it’s a good idea to let your boss know as soon as possible. Informing them you need to stay home should happen before the time you normally start work. For example, if you typically clock in at 9, your boss should receive your email before then.
If, on the other hand, you work shifts, your employer might require you to inform them at least two hours before your shift starts. Make sure you go over the company policy in your employee handbook and find out what the procedure is.
Letting your supervisor know at the earliest possible time will minimize inconveniences and allow them to plan around your absence as best as possible.
What to include
So, you’ve made up your mind: you’re spending the rest of the day in your pajamas sipping on instant chicken soup from a mug. Before you go back to bed, though, you must first let your employer know. While it’s important to keep things brief, you must ensure you include the following when sending a sick day email:
- The reason for your absence. Mention important details only. It’s best to spare your supervisor the discomfort of reading icky or embarrassing information.
- How many days off from work you need. If you’re battling a cold, then a couple of days of rest should do the trick. If it’s something more serious, though, see what your doctor recommends.
- Whether you’re able to answer urgent emails or calls. Nobody wants to discuss spreadsheets when they’re unwell. Still, consider checking emails or answering calls if you can, as it will be appreciated. (Don’t forget to include your phone number in your email!)
- The name of the person who will step in for you. Chances are, you’ve already let your work buddy know you won’t be going in today. If they’re filling in for you, let your boss know.
How to structure your email
As with any workplace email, you need to ensure your sick day email reads correctly and is error-free — no spelling mistakes or slang words, please! Generally speaking, it should be written in a professional tone, no matter how sick you are.
The email should follow a clear structure, as outlined below.
- Subject: The subject of your email should be pretty straightforward, something along the lines of: “[Your name] — Sick Day” or “Not Feeling Well”.
- On-arrival notices: If you want to keep the email confidential, you can include a notation with the words “CONFIDENTIAL” or “PERSONAL” in the subject line.
- Salutation: As with any formal letter in the workplace, you need to address your boss professionally. You don’t have to refer to them by their last name but do open with “Dear [your boss’s name]”.
- Opening paragraph: Begin your email by explaining that you are feeling under the weather and will not be in the office today.
- Body: In the body, explain your illness — without going into any gory details, of course!
- Final paragraph: In the final paragraph, you should explain who will be able to cover your work in your absence or if you’re able to keep an eye on your emails from home.
- Closing: Here, thank your manager for their understanding and let them know when you plan on returning to the office.
- Your name: As with any email, sign off appropriately with “Regards” followed by your name.
Tips to follow
Now that we’ve talked about the key things you should include in your sick day email and how to structure it, let’s look at some useful dos and don’ts. Following these tips will help you nail this often awkward interaction.
1. Alert your colleagues if necessary
If your colleagues are relying on you to complete a project, let them know that you won’t be going into the office today and offer instructions on how they can proceed without you. If you’re planning to check your emails or answer phone calls, let them know.
2. Follow company policy
Make sure you’re following the normal protocol when it comes to calling in sick. Depending on your company’s policy, you may be required to get a doctor’s note for just a day off or to call ahead in addition to sending an email. Make sure you’re up to date with these procedures and that you follow them to a T.
3. Do it early
Send your manager an email as soon as you realize that you can’t go to work. If it’s late in the evening, you can follow up the next day with a phone call, by which time you’d have gotten some rest and your manager will have already begun preparations to cover your absence. If you’re sending your email in the morning, meanwhile, make sure it’s when your alarm goes off and not the time you should be starting work. This will only look like you simply missed your alarm and are making excuses to avoid work.
4. Keep it simple
You don’t have to go into too much detail about your illness. You can say what it is you have (if it’s not too embarrassing) and request for the absence to be taken out of your paid sick leave allowance. There’s no need to describe how many times you threw up or how you’re left in bed sweating buckets.
We’ve put together two examples to give you an idea of what your email should look like: one for when you’re taking leave and do not want to be disturbed and another for when you’re able to work remotely.
You can modify these email templates according to your particular situation.
If you’re just too sick
Subject Line: [Your name] — Not Well
Dear [Manager name],
Unfortunately, I have woken up with the flu.
As a result, I’m going to take a sick day today in order to rest and fully recover, as I wouldn’t want to pass my germs around the office and infect my colleagues.
[Colleague’s name] is up to speed with my current workload and can assist if anything is needed in my absence. Otherwise, I’Il tackle those unresolved items on my return.
I’m hoping to be back in the office by [day], but l’ll be sure to keep you updated if anything changes.
Thank you for your understanding!
If you can work from home
Subject Line: [Your name] — Not Well
Dear [Manager name],
Sadly, I won’t be able to report to work today as I’m feeling under the weather. I saw a doctor last night who confirmed that I have [illness].
I have been instructed to stay home for [number of days] to rest, as I’m highly contagious. However, I’m feeling well enough to keep an eye on my emails. If anything urgently requires attention, I will pass it on to [Colleague’s name] who is up to speed with my pending tasks, and who will be able to assist.
I’ve also attached the doctor’s note to this email and will provide the hard copy upon my return to work on [insert date].
If you need to contact me, I will be available by email and phone on [insert number].
I’m hoping to be back in the office by [day], but l’Il be sure to keep you updated if anything changes.
Thank you for your understanding!
Things to remember
There are a few more things you should consider doing before you call in sick — and after! We know it can be hard to remember all this when your head is pounding like a drum, so keep this page open in front of you if you need to.
- Copy in the HR department: If company policy requires you to copy in the HR department and notify them of your absence, be sure to do this. They’ll need documentation for their records.
- Review before you send: As with any letter or professional email, be sure to proofread it before you hit the “Send” button. The last thing you need is to be judged for careless mistakes or typos.
- Remember to fill in a sickness form on your return: On your return to work, you’ll generally need to fill in a sickness form. Print out a copy and place it on your manager’s desk to show that you use your initiative — don’t wait for them to chase you to fill it out.
Having to call ahead or send an email notifying your manager you’re ill and unable to work today can be a nerve-wracking experience. And although you don’t want to let your team down, it’s important to take your sick leave when you need it and to fully recover. As long as you’re following protocol, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Have you recently used a sick day? If so, let us know how you notified your boss about your illness in the comments section below…
Originally posted 20 April 2018. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.