We’ve all had those days when we’ve felt under the weather and would much rather stay in bed than drag ourselves up and out of the house. However, the idea of calling work and explaining you’re too unwell to attend is far too reminiscent of being back in school, feigning an upset stomach to get out of a test. Instead, we grit our teeth, slam down a few paracetamols, and do our best to pretend we’re okay.
Unfortunately, the human body is not a machine, and you can’t just keep on treating it as normal when it starts to slow down. Pushing through an illness can make it worse or impede recovery. You’re also unlikely to produce quality work if you’re working when unwell, which could have a negative impact on the company and your colleagues. Here, we explore taking time off work for illness and how to call in sick.
Are people calling in sick?
We know we should take time off work when we’re unwell, but are Brits actually using their sick days? Roller banner specialist instantprint carried out a survey in May 2021, which they compared against the previous year’s survey in March 2020. The aim of this research was to find out about the sickness absence habits of employees across the UK.
The survey reported that, even during a global pandemic, some employees are choosing to continue working when ill. This applied to people both working from home and from the office. When asked whether their opinion has changed in comparison with before Covid, over a fifth (22%) confessed that it would still need to be something drastic to make them call in sick. A fifth (21%) reported that since the first lockdown they’ve taken much fewer sick days and would only take absence for major sickness like Covid.
It’s possible that the reason for this change in attitude is due to many UK employees working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. With no commute and all their home comforts to hand, it seems easier to just power through. Working from home also removed the risk of infecting colleagues, which may have been a significant factor in calling in sick when they were office-based.
It’s clear we should all be utilising our sick days and taking time to look after ourselves when we’re ill to encourage a speedy recovery and protect our colleagues from illness. Here are some top tips for calling in sick as a working professional.
Call as soon as possible
Nobody likes calling in sick, but it’s best to get it done early so you can go back to bed and get some much-needed rest. Most companies will set out in your employment contract what time you are expected to call if you are unable to work due to illness. Ensure you are aware of the timescale set out by your company and get in touch before the agreed deadline. Failing to call on time could cause concern when you do not arrive at work and will raise questions from your employer.
Don’t exaggerate the problem
Tell your manager or HR adviser what your symptoms are and be honest. Don’t exaggerate the issue or embellish the truth. You don’t need to have a whole collection of different ailments to justify a day off work. Simply explaining you have a migraine is good enough.
Tell your team directly
If you’re a manager or you lead a team, contact your team members directly to inform them you’re too unwell to work and confirm who will be their point of contact during your absence. It’s not necessary to phone each individual, a simple group email or message will suffice. Never assume your manager will inform your team. They could easily forget which could cause confusion among your colleagues.