How to Call in Sick when You Just Need a Day Off

Four Parts:Preparing to Make the CallMaking the CallFollowing ThroughSample Email In Sick

Everyone needs the occasional unscheduled day of leisure or mental health break. Unfortunately, your workplace probably doesn't appreciate your spontaneity, and with good reason. Luckily, there is something you can do in this exact situation: call in sick. Obviously this isn't a technique you can use too often, but it can give you that well-needed break. In order to call in sick, you have to convince your colleagues that you were really feeling sick the day before and make a call to your boss that makes it seem like you really regret having to stay home to tend to your illness without laying it on too thick.

Part 1
Preparing to Make the Call

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    Pick a good time to do it. You may think that every day is a good day to fake sick, but if you’re really determined to fake your illness, then you should put a bit more thought into it. If you pick the wrong day to fake sick, then it’ll be a lot harder to make a convincing case for yourself. Instead, make sure that the odds are in your favor before you execute your master plan. Here are some things to keep in mind:
    • Be prepared to be extra convincing if you call in on a Monday or Friday. It’ll be harder for your boss to believe you’re really feeling sick during a long weekend.
    • Make sure you haven’t recently been sick or taken a lot of time off.
    • Don’t fake sick right after you’ve had an altercation at work, or after you’ve done a lot of grumbling. You don’t want your boss to see your fake illness as an affront. Your illness will be much more convincing if all was fine and dandy the last time you went to work.
    • Try not to conveniently miss a particularly unpleasant day at work. If your boss knows you hate the dreaded monthly meetings, then you shouldn’t fake sick on this particular day — no matter how good it will feel.
    • Try to fake sick when someone else at work was sick, or if it's flu season. That way your boss won't be too suspicious, since everyone is getting sick.
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    Lay down some groundwork. If you plan to call in sick, then you should make an effort to seem sick the day before without being too obvious about it. Don’t fake a cough throughout the day, but act a little bit under the weather and even sniffle a little, leading your coworkers to ask if you’re feeling sick while brushing them off. Act like you’re sick, but in denial about it, so that your coworkers don’t suspect that you’re faking it. Setting up this foundation the day before will make it more convincing when you take the next day off.
    • Act more reserved that day, too. If you’re extra energetic one day and then call in sick the next day, people will be surprised. Turn down invitations to lunch or happy hours the day before you call in sick.
    • Try to “subtly” take an Advil around your coworkers.
    • Blow your nose a little more often than usual.
    • If you do have lunch with your coworkers, don’t eat all of your food so it looks like you don’t have much of an appetite.
    • Look slightly unkempt that day. Tussle your hair a bit, don’t wear your best outfit, and be okay with looking a little tired around the eyes.
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    Know your illness inside and out. Though your boss may not ask too many questions, it’s important to know what you’re sick with before you call. Instead of just saying you don’t feel well, saying you have a migraine, stomach flu, or just a regular cold can help make your argument more convincing. You should prepare to answer any questions your boss may ask you, like when you started feeling sick, when you’ll be back, and whether you’ll see a doctor. You don’t want to sound uncertain, or your boss will suspect that you’re faking it.
    • If you want to take off multiple days, pick a good illness. A migraine or a bad case of gastroenteritis can get you off for two or more days, as they can carry on for a long time and pop up at any time. Pink eye and strep throat can drag on longer. Whatever you choose, do your research thoroughly so that you can discuss the symptoms with clarity.
    • You can even rehearse the conversation with a close friend to make sure you can pull it off. Chances are, your boss won’t want to get into the details of what’s going on with your stomach or throat, but it’s best to be prepared.
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    Prepare to take it easy at home. Don’t fake sick and then go hiking with your wife or throw a wild party for your friends. If you fake sick and then act super social, it’ll get back to your boss. Instead, you should call in sick when you really feel like just being in bed, hanging out around the house, and taking it easy — doing pretty much what you would do if you were actually sick, minus the feeling ill part.
    • Besides, if you spend your sick day outdoors and show up to work with a tan, that will look pretty suspicious.
    • While you're at it, it's a good idea to log off any social media sites that you might be tempted to visit on your "sick day." That way, your boss won't stumble over photos of you hiking in the middle of your supposedly debilitating illness or leaving comments that raise suspicions of good health.

Part 2
Making the Call

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    Call your boss or supervisor early the next morning. Don't delay––the sooner you tell your boss, the better. Additionally, you'll have a rather rough voice after waking up, giving you that added credibility. Plus, if you call early, you may be more likely to get your boss’s voicemail or to catch your boss when he’s off guard. If you call too late, then it’ll look like you didn’t really consider your boss’s feelings.
    • Keep the conversation short. Though knowing your “illness” well can help you feel prepared, you should remember that stories are typically the embellishment told by liars. Don't get too detailed––just say that you're not feeling well and won't be coming in. Give just enough information for your boss to believe you, such as saying "I was up all night" or "I'm having awful stomach problems."
    • You can also say something like, “I knew I should have said something at the end of the day yesterday, but I was hoping I would sleep this thing off.” Without being too obvious about it, make a point of showing how much you really hoped you would come to work.
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    Make sure you sound sick. While you shouldn’t overdo it when you call your boss, it won’t hurt you to actually sound a little sick. In addition to having a hoarse voice from calling early in the morning, you can sniffle or cough very occasionally so your boss thinks you’re sick without having to overdo it. You can also talk a little more slowly or softly to show that you don’t have your full strength. Practice this act aloud so it sounds convincing.
    • If you want to make your voice sound extra hoarse, you can scream into a pillow for ten seconds or so before you make the call. But this will hurt your throat, so make sure it’s worth it.
    • You can also just try to sound a little bit out of it and disoriented. If you sound extra sharp and are super snappy to answer any question your boss has, you may not be very convincing as a sick person.
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    Be prepared for questions. Is your boss the nosy type? Try to imagine what kinds of questions he or she might have. For instance, if you work in food service, your boss might wonder how contagious you are. He or she might also ask if you've tried everything possible to make yourself feel well enough to come in. The best policy is to say that you think you're contagious, and that you've tried every remedy you can muster (painkillers, antacids, more liquids, etc.) but all to no avail.
    • Casually mention you've called your doctor's office and are waiting to hear back on an appointment time as they're booked out. During peak cold and flu seasons, it may be several days before they could squeeze you in for an office visit. If your employer demands a note after you get back, you can always say your appointment isn't until later in the week. It gives you time to run to the doctor.
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    End the conversation on a good note. When you get done talking to your boss, try to leave a positive impression as much as you can. Say that you’ll do your best to recover to come to work the next day and that you’re grateful that your boss can be so understanding. Show how committed you are to the job and how eager you are to return to your responsibilities without overdoing it. Make your boss feel like you’re truly sorry to take a day off instead of that you can’t wait to watch TV and ditch your job.
    • You can even tell your boss to reach out with any questions if you think he’d really need your help. If you’re willing to be disturbed during your fake sick day, you can say, “I’ll be in bed all day, so give me a call if you need me…” But do this only if you think your boss will really be at a loss without you.
    • End the conversation by thanking your boss for being so considerate.

Part 3
Following Through

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    Follow up on your sickness when you return to work. Don't walk into work after your sick day looking perfectly healthy. Play it up like you're still getting over your illness. Blow your nose a few times or cough softly. You don’t have to play it up too much or act a little too much like a martyr for returning to work. Don’t mention your illness and let other people ask how you’re feeling. You should play it down to be even more authentic, saying something like, “I’m not feeling so bad anymore, really,” or, “I just need one more good night’s sleep and I’ll be just fine.”
    • If you want to look extra authentic, don't get a lot of sleep the night before so that you show up to work looking haggard and exhausted. This bolsters your credibility for the next time you call in sick (and gives you an excuse to stay up late).
    • Act a little more reserved that day. Don’t be extra friendly or chatty with your coworkers, and turn down invitations. Remember that you still need to save your strength.
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    Don’t tell your coworkers that you faked being sick. You may think that you’re close with your coworkers and that they would never rat you out, but you should still be careful about announcing that you were pretending to be sick. Your coworkers won’t want to high-five you, and will think you were being irresponsible or just plain annoying. Plus, if just one coworker repeats what you’ve said and it gets back to your boss, then you will not only get in trouble, but you’ll never be able to fake sick again.
    • Furthermore, getting called out for faking sick will also make your boss more suspicious the next time you’re actually sick. You don’t want to have to defend yourself for the rest of your time at work.
    • Hey, we all need a day off from work once in a while and there’s no judgment. Still, this doesn’t mean you should go bragging about it, or it’ll show that you really don’t take your work seriously.
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    Be friendly to your boss. After calling in sick, you should be nice to your boss when you return to work. You don’t have to mention the illness or thank your boss for being so understanding, but you should work on having a good attitude and sending positive vibes your boss’s way. Make him or her remember what an awesome employee you are and don’t leave a shadow of a doubt in your boss’s mind that you might have been playing hookie.
    • You don’t have to exaggerate your friendliness or go on and on about how much you love your job and how much meaning it brings to your life.
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    Put in a good day’s work. When you return to work from faking sick, you should try to put your best foot forward. This is not the day to roll in an hour late or to spend two hours on the phone making personal phone calls or booking your next vacation. Instead, you should stay at work the full time you need to be there, contribute to meetings, respond to emails promptly, and do anything else you can to ensure that you’re making a good impression.
    • You may love to complain to your coworkers when you come to work, but you should ease up and be a bit more positive after you return. You don’t want your boss to hear you complaining after you’ve taken a day off.
    • It’s okay to fake sick every once in a while, but if you get into the habit of slacking off in general, then your job may be in jeopardy. Make an effort to whistle while you work as much as you can when you return.


  • Having an excellent reputation for faithfully doing your work will help erase any doubts your boss or colleagues have about you. If you are the lazy type that constantly attempts to escape from any work, you may not be able to pull this off as easily.
  • Try not to call in "sick" on too many Mondays or Fridays––extended weekends tend to stick out in the minds of bosses and coworkers. Calling out on the occasional Tuesday is more credible. Also, do not make a habit of taking leave on important days like the day the team needs to work extra time to meet the deadline. This risks damaging your relationships with your colleagues, especially if any of them suspect you're faking it.
  • Be sure you tell no one that you are about to pretend to be sick; otherwise, they may tell your boss or others, and you'll be in trouble!
  • Do not "schedule" a sick day in advance. If your boss finds out that you let people know two weeks ago that you were going to be sick today, you could lose your job.
  • Build up a reputation. Go to work when you're really sick, so your boss won't think you're faking when you decided to play sick to get out of working. Once you're shoved out the door a few times for being deathly ill (and infectious) at work, your boss will be thankful when you do call in sick and think you've finally taken everyone's advice to stay at home.
  • If you have children, they can be a very handy excuse for missing a day of work. Then again, you might regret not having the added time to stay home when they are sick, so be careful with this one.
  • Just call your boss. Don't have someone tell him, he will just call you back. Then you will have to fake everything all over again!
  • If you go to the beach on your day off, don't forget the sunscreen. Showing up to work the next day looking like a lobster can be embarrassing, not to mention incriminating.
  • Don't call in late to much or your boss may become suspicious.
  • If you have to take care of urgent business but still want a day off, turn up for work in the morning. Take care of what you need to, and be quiet. If anyone asks what's up, just say you don't feel well. When you've decided to leave, simply approach your boss and say you're ill and going home. Don't ask, tell. Explain that you've taken care of all the urgent work for today, and there is nothing your boss can do to say no.
  • In the UK, the Food Standards Agency expects employers of "food handlers" to exclude these employees from work for 48 hours after symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea have ceased; a 24 hour sickness bug could mean three days off work. Of course, if really have diarrhea, this may not be of any consolation to your weakened self!
  • If you have a social networking page, remember to update your status accordingly - a simple, "OMG, I feel SO bad...I'm making me some chicken noodle soup" should suffice. The last thing you want to do is update your status about going shopping, swimming, skiing, etc. when you are supposed to have a fever so high you couldn't attend school/work!
  • If you live in New Zealand, take advantage of food safety regulations if you work in service. Regulations state that you must be cleared of diarrhea symptoms at least 24 hours after you are cleared of any symptoms. You might as well use up the whole two days rest.
  • If you actually are sick and you need to get a doctor's note for work, ask for a "return to work" further away than you'll really need. Then go back to work "early", before the note says you should return. This makes you look like a dedicated employee who uses less sick time than necessary. It also provides documentation that you can point to in your employment record, should your use of sick time ever be questioned in the future. (Note that some companies will not let you return to work without being released from care. If you try to return to work before the date stated on your note, your employer will probably send you back home.)
  • If you and a friend both want to call in sick, try not to do it on the same day.
  • Lay upside down off your bed. This will help it sound like you have a nasal infection. Besides, practice makes perfect!
  • A lot of workplaces now ask that you get a health form from your doctor saying you were sick. Make sure that you know your own company policy's before lying about a sickness and possibility getting written up.
  • Don't feel guilty. An apparent 40 percent of Americans have called in sick to enjoy a summer's day, pursuing what is known as "seasonal absence syndrome".[1]


  • Do not use an excuse about someone in your family dying because the boss can find out for sure and you will be caught in a lie. This will make you less credible to your boss when someone really does die.
  • Ultimately, if you're in need of a day off work more times than you can count, reassess the job you're in. It may be that you can't stand what you're doing and you're actually ruining your health through worry, anxiety and resentment. In this case, you need to think long and hard about changing jobs or even career path.
  • Most employers have a no-fault absentee program. Check with your company's human resources department to see how yours stacks up. Under a no-fault absentee program, you are penalized whether you have a doctors slip or not. So watch out calling off, your job may depend on it.
  • In the United States, by federal law, employers with over 50 people have to fill out "FMLA", Family Medical Leave Act for yourself or a dependent. If you claim an FMLA day and are caught abusing the leave, you can be instantly terminated.
  • It is not a good idea to do this because it may put unnecessary stress on your coworkers only because you are lying. If there is an issue at work, talk privately with your boss and they'll help you through it.
  • Taking time off work affects all colleagues. Think carefully before landing burdens on your coworkers and leaving anyone in the lurch.

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