How to Call out of Work (14 Simple Steps + Examples)

Calling out of work can be stressful. Whether you’re sick, dealing with a personal issue, or facing an emergency, knowing how to tell your boss matters a lot.

But how do you get through this conversation as smoothly as possible? Is there a stress-free way to handle this?

This article will guide you step by step on how to professionally and effectively communicate your absence, ensuring you stay on good terms at work. Plus, I’ve included examples to help illustrate the right approach for different situations.

Understand Your Company’s Sick Leave Policy

First up, get to know your company’s sick leave policy. You can do this by having a quick look at the employee handbook or chatting with HR. Knowing what’s expected means no stress for you and no surprises for your employer.

You’ll want to:

  • Find out how many sick days you can take.
  • Check if you need a doctor’s note.
  • See if your sick days are paid.

Understanding these rules can let you chill and heal without stressing about work stuff. And who doesn’t want that?

Choose the Appropriate Communication Method

Every boss and company has a way they prefer to hear this news. Some like emails, while others might prefer a call or a text. Choosing right means your message gets through clearly and quickly. If you’re unsure what to use, think back to how others have done it.

The goal is to make it easy for your boss to get the news without any fuss. If you’re worried your voice sounds like a frog, stick to email or text. It gets the info to your boss without scaring them with your throaty “hello.” 

Also, remember to double up if needed: a text now and an email for backup never hurts.

"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."

— Tom Feltham | Marketing Operations Director, Software Path

Notify Your Supervisor as Early as Possible

As soon as you know you’re not well enough for work, give your boss a heads-up. The early bird gets the worm, and in this case, the worm is keeping everything at work running smoothly. 

If you feel bad tonight, tell them you might not make it in tomorrow. Even if you wake up sick, tell them right away. It’s about being considerate and responsible. Doing such also shows respect—for their time and yours. 

Be Honest About Your Reason

When you call out sick, just give your boss the facts. If you’ve got the flu, say it’s the flu. Honesty is the best policy because it builds trust, and you want your boss to trust you, right?

Here’s how simple it can be:

  1. No tall tales, just the truth.
  2. Keep it simple, like “I have a fever and need to rest.”
  3. A straightforward reason sets a straight path to getting better.

This way, everyone’s on the same page, without misunderstandings. It shows your integrity and helps maintain a good relationship with your boss. 

Be Brief and Direct

Keep your message short and to the point. Your boss is busy, and so are you, especially if you’re not feeling well. You don’t need to write a novel. Just let them know you’re taking a sick day and leave it at that. The key here is clarity without the fluff.

Imagine making a quick note. That’s about the length and detail you’re aiming for — enough to inform but not overwhelm. Keeping your message concise respects both your time and your boss’s.

Avoid Over-Sharing

It’s tempting to explain everything about how you’re feeling but resist the temptation. Your boss doesn’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of your illness. 

Stick to the basics: you’re unwell and won’t be in. Over-sharing can make things awkward and isn’t necessary for calling out sick.

A guide for sharing the right amount:

  • Mention if you’re contagious or if the doctor ordered bed rest.
  • A simple “I have a migraine and can’t look at screens” is enough detail.
  • Keep the focus on the impact, like if an urgent task needs reassigning.

Follow Up in Writing

After you’ve given your supervisor the verbal heads-up, send a quick follow-up email. Just a simple message reiterating that you’ll be out sick and you’ve notified them as per company policy will do.

An email makes sure there’s no confusion later about whether or not you informed your boss. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it ensures everyone is on the same page. This helps keep everything clear and above board and serves as a good backup, just like saving a significant document.

"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."

— Jessica Miller-Merrell, SHRM-SCP, SPHR | Founder, Workology

Offer a Tentative Return Date

Nobody can predict the future, but giving a rough idea of when you might be back at work helps your boss and team set an initial plan. Think of it as giving them a heads-up on when they can expect things to return to normal.

Here’s how to play it:

  • “I might return Thursday, but I’ll confirm Wednesday night.”
  • “If I feel better, I’ll be in by the afternoon.”
  • For a tougher bug, “I expect to be out until at least Monday.”

A tentative return date keeps the workflow smooth and shows you’re thinking ahead.

"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."

— Chris Chancey | Founder, Amplio Recruiting

Propose a Plan for Your Absence

Before you sign off, suggest how your key responsibilities can be handled while you’re out. This not only eases the burden on your supervisor or teammates but also demonstrates your commitment to your work and planning skills.

Things to consider in your backup plan:

  • Is there a coworker who’s familiar with your projects? They might be the go-to person.
  • Highlight the tasks that can’t wait for your return and suggest how to handle them.
  • For a longer absence, set things up so others can step in easily, like shared project files or helpful notes.

Arranging for your tasks shows you care about the work, even when you can’t be there.

"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."

— Fiona Arnold | Director, RedCrest Careers

Keep Your Team Informed

Your colleagues are your squad, and no one wants to leave their team hanging. When you call out, a heads-up to your closest work pals or team can prevent work pile-ups and missed deadlines. It’s about being a considerate team player.

Why a team update is helpful:

  • It alerts them to possible changes in their day.
  • It allows them to step in seamlessly if needed.
  • It keeps the workflow smooth, just like oiling a squeaky wheel.

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

It’s essential to be well-informed about both what you’re entitled to and what’s expected of you when you call out for work. It ensures you won’t be taken advantage of, and knowing your responsibilities means you won’t accidentally step on any toes.

You want to make sure you know what documentation you need to provide, if any, and stay on top of communication if there are any changes in your absence. Also, check whether your illness qualifies under your company’s policy.

Be Prepared for Questions

Naturally, when you call out, your boss or co-workers might have follow-up questions. This is not to pry but to understand how they can support you or if your tasks need urgent coverage.

Expect these kinds of follow-ups:

  • “When will you be back?”
  • “Is there anything urgent that needs covering?”
  • “Can we contact you if we absolutely have to?”

Being prepared to provide this information keeps things transparent and helps your employer make any necessary adjustments for you and the team.

End the Conversation on a Good Note

Whether you’re calling, texting, or emailing, wrap up your sick leave notice in a positive way. A simple “Thank you for understanding” or “Thanks. I hope to be back soon” to your boss and team goes a long way. It’s about appreciating their support while you are out.

Ending on a good note helps maintain good relationships at work and leaves a positive impression.

Maintain a Professional Tone

Throughout the whole process of calling out and coming back, make sure to keep your communications formal and respectful. This shows respect for your colleagues and supervisors and reflects well on you as an employee. 

Here are a few tips to keep things professional:

  • Stick to the facts and leave out slang or overly casual language.
  • Even if you’re in a rush, a quick “please” or “thank you” never goes astray.
  • Acknowledge the inconvenience with a polite acknowledgment.

It sends a message that you value your role and the people you work with—even more so when you’re under the weather and can’t make it in.

Examples of How to Call Out of Work

Now that we’ve covered the essential steps, let’s put theory into practice. Below are examples to help you apply these guidelines effectively in real situations:

Example 1: Email Notification for a Sick Day

Subject: Sick Day

Hi [Supervisor’s Name],

I wanted to inform you that I am feeling unwell this morning with flu symptoms and will be unable to make it to the office today. I have reviewed our company’s sick leave policy and will ensure to follow the necessary procedures.

I’ve delegated my urgent tasks to [Colleague’s Name] and briefed them via email. I’ll be available on my phone for any urgent issues and aim to return by [Date], health permitting.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Example 2: Text Message for a Personal Emergency

Hi [Supervisor’s Name],

I’m dealing with a family emergency today and won’t be able to come to work. I’ve arranged with [Colleague’s Name] to cover my shift and have briefed them on what’s pending.

I aim to return [Day of the week], but I will keep you posted if plans change. I apologize for the short notice and appreciate your support.

[Your Name]

Example 3: Phone Call Script for Sudden Illness

Hi [Supervisor’s Name],

It’s [Your Name]. I’m calling to inform you that I have a stomach bug and can’t come to the office today. I’ve arranged for [Colleague’s Name] to cover my urgent tasks for the day.

I’ll update you on my condition and plan to return as soon as I feel better, hopefully by tomorrow. I apologize for the short notice and any hassle caused. Let me know if there’s anything I should handle from home.

Thanks for your understanding. Take care.

Example 4: Slack Message for Unexpected Absence

Hi [Supervisor’s Name],

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I need to take an urgent personal day today. I have already updated the team calendar. I’ve shared all necessary files with [Colleague’s Name] to ensure continuity.

I will return tomorrow and catch up on all the missed work. Please let me know if there’s anything specific you need me to handle remotely.

Thank you for understanding.
[Your Name]

Example 5: Voicemail for an Unexpected Sick Day

Hi [Supervisor’s Name], this is [Your Name]. It’s [time] on [date]

Unfortunately, I’m feeling very under the weather this morning, and I’ve lost my voice. I won’t be able to come to work today. I’ve sent you and HR an email to document this call. 

If my condition improves, I plan to be back tomorrow. I’ll keep you updated on my status.

Thank you for your understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I feel guilty about calling out of work?

No, you should not feel guilty about calling out of work for legitimate reasons like illness or an emergency. It’s important to prioritize your health and well-being.

Employers understand that unexpected situations can arise. Just ensure you communicate openly and follow your company’s protocols. This approach maintains trust and reduces any added stress, helping you return to work ready to contribute effectively.

Do I need to provide a doctor’s note when I call out sick?

This depends on your company’s sick leave policy. Some companies require a note if you are out for more than a specific number of days. Always check your employee handbook for the rules.

How often is it acceptable to call out of work?

This varies by job and company policy, but frequently calling out can harm your professional reputation and work responsibilities.

Consistently communicate and manage your health and personal commitments responsibly to minimize disruptions.

What happens if I don’t call out correctly?

Incorrectly calling out can lead to misunderstandings, a lack of trust, or even disciplinary actions. It is essential to follow the proper protocols outlined by your employer to ensure clarity and maintain your professional standing.

Final Thoughts

Calling out of work can feel tricky, but with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Remember, clear communication and honesty go a long way in maintaining trust with your boss and coworkers.

Following these steps will help you ensure that your absence is communicated professionally, promoting understanding and handling the situation with ease.

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Robby is a multimedia editor at UpJourney with a journalism and communications background.

When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.