How to Call out of Work, According to 9 HR Experts and Employers

Whether you’re working part-time or full-time, there will be days when you need to miss work due to a variety of reasons.

However, for some people, calling (or emailing) out of work can be a very awkward and complicated process.

That’s why we rounded up some valuable tips on how to appropriately call out of work, as discussed by employers and HR experts.

Chris Chancey

Chris Chancey

Founder, Amplio Recruiting

Whether you are unwell or just need some time off, it is important to let your supervisor or boss know that you will not be coming to work, if possible in advance. Here are a few things to consider, whether you opt to write an email, text message, or to leave a voice mail:

Get to the point immediately

Simply state that you are writing or calling to let them know you will not be coming to work.

Keep it short

State the reason why you need some time off but do not get into the details. If you are unwell, say so and if you need to attend to personal matters, briefly state the issue at hand and leave it at that.

Offer a solution for your absence

If you anticipate that your absence might burden your colleagues unnecessarily or it might have an impact on your clients or the work process, make arrangements to have someone cover for you.

Doing this on your own will make things easier on your boss and will demonstrate that you are a considerate and responsible teammate.

Let them know how you can be reached

It is really important that you keep all lines of communication open to avoid creating potentially costly holdups caused by your absence. Let your boss know the easiest way to reach you while you are away.

Provide a day of return

Lastly, if possible, let your boss know when you will be returning to work. If you cannot give an exact date, the best you can do is reassure them that you are committed to coming back to work soon. If you anticipate that you might need more time off, offer to work from home for the time you will be away.

All in all, always comply with company policy when calling out of work.

Fiona Arnold

Fiona Arnold

Director, RedCrest Careers

An employers main concern when you call out of work is covering any gaps that may appear in their team’s workflow that occurs due to your absence. There are a few ways that you can make this task easier for them.

The best way would be to give as much notice as possible when calling out of work

If it is due to illness, try to call the night before and say that you are feeling unwell and may not make it in. If it is due to an emergency that you can anticipate as possibly happening in the near future, then also send out a warning call.

Explain to your employer exactly what you were planning to do that day

Recommend how those tasks can be completed by others. Be prepared to send over some instructions or documents that might make this covering easier.

Provide a reason

As far as the reason for absence goes, so long as the reason is not ridiculous, it is secondary to making the covering of your absence as easy as possible.


Of course, apologize to your employer, and suggest ways that you can catch up on the work when you are next in.

Nenad Milanovic

Nenad Milanovic

CEO, Clockify

Be brief and avoid justification

As the CEO of a company developing a time tracker, you’d think I would obsess over every minute of my employees’ absences. I’ve seen emails and texts that go in-depth about the reasons for their missing work as if they’re desperately trying to justify themselves.

Employers can sometimes be seen as big bad wolves that will tear down your email because we absolutely need you at the office that day. The truth is far from it.

Every CEO worth their salt knows that life gets in the way – so do situations and other people.

If you don’t have a track record of frequently calling out of work for a myriad of reasons, we’ll trust you. That’s why a one to two sentence explanation is more than enough: You can’t come to the office due to a health issue or family emergency, or a pipe burst in your apartment.

Simply state when you’ll be absent and for how long (if known).

If any of your colleagues can fill in for you that day, it’s good to include that as well. Additionally, we’re busy people, so walls of emails and texts tend to be set aside for later, or left unread. Remember: brief and concise is desireable.

However, if you still feel the need to give an explanation on missing work, wait until you’re back at the office and speak to your team lead or manager then.

Mathew Sims

Mathew Sims


When it comes to calling out of work, the catchphrase is “communication, communication, communication”

We’ll assume you’re calling out for a legitimate reason. If this wasn’t an event you could plan for, you’ll want to communicate with your work the minute the situation arises so that they can plan accordingly.

In my work environment, we have a team of 50+ writers and editors who are all depending on someone else to get work done and making arrangements for their schedules with that expectation. Communicating with as much runway is possible is a good way to follow the golden rule.

Make work arrangements

Depending on the work environment, you’ll want to ensure that your projects are all caught up and/or anything that’s urgent you’ve made arrangements with someone to follow up and complete for you.

On the flip side of that, don’t be the team member who is always asking for favors but never returning. We all have emergencies and so whenever possible help others and hopefully others will do the same for you.

Depending on the type of emergency, you may also offer to work remotely

Some situations may preclude this but with the advancement of technology and telecommuting being more prevalent, it’s a solid solution to offer whenever possible.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Founder, Workology

If you are calling in sick for work, start by reviewing the company’s policy which is normally found in the employee handbook

In my personal experience, it’s a good idea to email your boss as soon as possible when calling in sick. Blind copy your personal as well as professional email address so you have a record of the communication. I like to do this instead of simply leaving a voice mail as these do not allow the employee to establish a paper trail or documentation.

Some managers prefer to receive call outs via text message. I encourage taking screenshots of the communication. Again, send the message as soon as possible so your boss can plan for someone to cover your work shift if it is customer-facing like in retail or hospitality.

Familiarize yourself with the policy because some companies have policies that require the use of vacation and personal time off when calling in sick.

You’ll want to know what’s required and how to be financially prepared if your time off is unpaid or will require a visit to the doctor to obtain a doctor’s note.

Dana Case

Dana Case

Director of Operations, MyCorporation

My advice for calling out of work is to keep it simple

Do not detail a long list of sick symptoms you’re feeling. Do it quickly, too. If you know you have the stomach flu the night before and that you will be unable to come into work the next day, contact your employer to let them know you will be out as soon as possible.

This gives them time to cover your role for the day, as needed, and provide the rest of the team with a heads up that you will be out.

Ciara Van De Velde

Ciara Van De Velde

Career Engagement Manager, Employment BOOST

When calling off due to illness or emergent situations, it is best practice to contact your supervisor as early as possible

Send a short email informing them of your absence and when they can expect your return. If you plan on keeping tabs on different in-office communication platforms, let your supervisor know that they can still contact you directly.

If you do not hear from your supervisor by the time the workday has started, be sure to follow up with them to confirm your absence.

Ryan Horban

Ryan Horban

President of Operations, Tracking System Direct

Give as much notice as possible

Whether a person is sick, having a family emergency, experiencing car trouble, or simply needing a mental health day, I think it is important to give employers as much notice as possible. This way managers can make the proper adjustments as soon as possible. A simple email to the appropriate supervisor is all that should be required.

However, I also think from the perspective of a business owner that we need to respect the privacy of our employees. That means if the employee does not provide a reason for the absence then we should not grind them for a “valid reason” for calling out of work. We need to respect our staff and never let them feel bad in the slightest for calling out of work. Life happens.

Tom Feltham

Tom Feltham

Marketing Operations Director, Software Path

Choose the correct communication channel to notify your team

All companies tend to handle this slightly differently, so clarifying the preferred channel is an important check to make as an employee. As an example, we encourage our team to notify their manager in Slack rather than calling directly to reduce the impact on managers outside of working hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I feel guilty about calling out of work?

Feeling guilty about calling out of work is natural, especially if you’re putting your co-workers or employer in a tough spot.

However, it’s important to remember that your health and well-being should always come first. If you’re feeling sick or burned out, taking a day off can help you be more productive and focused when you return to work.

Just ensure you follow proper protocol when calling in sick, respect your employer’s time, and don’t abuse the system by calling out too often.

How often is it acceptable to call out of work in a year?

There is no set number of times that it’s acceptable to call out of work in a year. It really depends on your employer and your company’s policies. Some companies have a set number of sick days or personal days that employees can use, while others are more flexible.

It’s always a good idea to check your company’s employee handbook or talk to your manager to better understand what’s expected of you when it comes to calling out of work.

Is it ever okay to call out of work just because I don’t feel like going to work?

No, calling out of work is not okay because you don’t feel like going in. Calling out without a valid reason is unprofessional and can cause unnecessary stress for your colleagues and employer.

If you need a mental health day or a break, talk to your manager about taking time off or developing a solution that works for everyone.

In general, it’s best to save your sick or personal days for when you need them rather than using them as an excuse to skip work.

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