Although the expression is to "call in sick," email is often an acceptable way to inform your manager that you're sick and won't be able to come into work. Before you hit "send," however, you'll want to make sure your email is worded correctly to avoid any negative repercussions—for you, your team, or your boss. Plus, you'll want to check your employee manual so you know when a doctor's note is required.
Options for Calling In Sick
Before you send an email letting your boss know that you're sick, be sure that is the way you're expected to provide notification that you won't be in the office, or online if you work remotely. Also, be sure to specify whether you'll be available to work.
At many organizations, sick days have transformed into "respond to emails from home" days.
Be clear in your email about whether you're too sick to respond to emails or plan to check in periodically.
Also, let your manager know if you're available to answer any questions that may arise during your absence.
If you are too sick or contagious to work but feel that there are tasks you could nonetheless do at home, you can certainly ask your supervisor if telecommuting for the day is an option. It can avoid your having to take a paid or unpaid sick day. The worst thing your manager can say is no (perhaps just because he prefers that you take the day to recover fully so that you can return to work as soon as possible).
While it may be tempting to stay on top of emails even on a sick day, keep in mind that sometimes rest is necessary to recover. And working while you're under the weather can lead to sloppy errors. So if you need to unplug from email and avoid all work, do so.
Sample Sick Day Email Messages
Use this sample sick day email message when you will be taking a sick day and if email—as opposed to a telephone call or text—is an acceptable way to notify your supervisor.
Subject: Your Name - Sick Day
Dear Supervisor Name:
I will be unable to attend work today because of personal illness. I will be using one of my sick days to cover this absence from work.
Please let me know if I can provide any further information. I’ll check my email throughout the day.
Subject: Michael Doring Absence
Dear Ms. Kelly,
Please accept this written notification of my absence on August 27, 2020. I was unable to come to work due to sickness.
If you need additional information, please let me know.
What to Include in Your Email
Provide your supervisor with important information about why you won't be in, but don't share too many details about the exact nature of your sickness. No one wants to picture the specifics! Here are some details you might want to include in your note:
Whether or not you'll be checking your email. You can also provide your phone number, in case something urgent comes up.
If you're taking paid leave. Mention whether you plan on taking a paid or unpaid sick day.
Explain what you'll be missing. If you're in the middle of a project or will be missing an important meeting, you may want to share that information. You can say something like, "Marisa should be up-to-date if there are any questions on the Richardson proposal," or "I will do my best to call into the team meeting at noon," or "I'll also be emailing Tanisha so that she can cover my social media responsibilities."
When to Send Your Email
Be courteous to your supervisor, fellow employees, and—if applicable—your clients. As soon as you know, alert them that you will be out sick. You can send the email in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning when your alarm goes off, and you realize you aren’t going to be able to make it out of bed.
You'll definitely want to avoid sending your email at the time you should be arriving at work—or worse, after your start time. It can make it seem as if you slept through your alarm, and it may leave coworkers scrambling to cover your work during the time it takes your supervisor to find a substitute for you.
You can also send an email to your team informing them that you'll be out sick; keeping everyone in the loop will help them adjust to your absence as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Set Up an Out of the Office Message
Place an out-of-office response on your work email and/or telephone account. In it, you can let people who try to contact you know that you won't be responding to email that day.
It’s also a good idea to direct them to someone else who can help out with urgent questions and concerns during your absence. Also, cancel or move any meetings that you won't be able to make.
Alert your supervisor to a sick day using email. In your message, mention whether you will be checking emails or will be offline completely.
Don't share too many details. You can simply say "I'm taking a sick day" or "I'm feeling under the weather." There's no need to share specifics on the nature of your illness.
Time your email appropriately. Make sure it arrives before your start time.
Have backup in place. If you're working on urgent projects or will receive emails that demand an immediate response, arrange for another employee to cover your work during your sick day.