How To Write a Sick Day Email (With Examples)
Updated July 31, 2023
If you’re sick, it can be necessary to take time off from work—to rest, recover and protect your colleagues from anything contagious. When you take a sick day, it’s important to communicate that you’ll be out of the office to your managers, coworkers and clients and how they can proceed while you’re away. Being proactive will show your coworkers that you’re responsible and help you return to work with less stress.
In this article, we explain how to effectively communicate about your sick day and provide sick-day email samples.
How to write a sick-day email
Different jobs and industries have varying protocols for sick days, especially for shift jobs that require your work to be covered when clients or tight schedules are involved. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your company’s sick leave policies, including how it affects your pay, whether you have to accrue a certain amount of hours before taking sick time and how you’re expected to communicate that you're taking a sick day.
You typically should contact your manager first in case they have specific instructions, and let them know as soon as possible. You might consider texting or calling them if it’s a reasonable hour and if this is considered an acceptable form of communication.
If not, send them an email that includes these four key pieces of information:
1. Your condition and how long you expect to be out
It’s always helpful to have confirmation from a doctor, but a high temperature or feeling ill in a way that might be contagious or prevent you from being productive are all good reasons to take a sick day. You should also include how long you expect to be out, if possible. If you’ve visited a doctor, they might prescribe a certain amount of time off.
Here’s an example sick-day email beginning:
Example: “Hi Bonnie,
I’m writing to let you know that I developed a fever last night. I hoped it would go away by this morning, but it looks like I still have a temperature. I expect to be back in the office tomorrow, given my temperature goes back to normal.”
2. Whether you’ll be actively working from home
Workplaces and individual managers may have different policies and expectations around what you should do when you take a sick day. While some employers may encourage you to work from home, others might tell you to rest and stay offline for the day.
If you’re unsure, offer to work from home if you’re able and see if your manager instructs you otherwise. If you’re unable to work, don’t feel guilty about taking the day off. This way, you can focus on getting healthy to return to work sooner rather than later.
Here’s a sample email message indicating whether you plan to work from home:
Example: “I’m going to stay home today to make sure I don’t spread a cold around the office. I will work as I’m able, but I’ve asked Cynthia if she can be my backup today just in case.”
3. What work you’ll need help with
If you have an important deadline, project or presentation that day, work with your manager to ensure they’re rescheduled or the work is reassigned so it can still move forward in your absence. Provide them with as much context and detailed instruction as possible.
Example: “I am scheduled to give an employee training today at 3 p.m. I’ve asked our other trainers if anyone else is available at this time. If not, I’ve asked the coordinator if we can reschedule it for next week. Following up with the trainers and coordinator in my absence would be greatly appreciated.”
4. A colleague who can help cover your work
If possible, it’s helpful to find a colleague to back you up when you’re out in case of an emergency. Sometimes your manager will handle finding someone to cover your work, so you should tailor your message to your common workplace practices.
Example: “I have briefed Cynthia on my current workload and asked her to help out in case anything comes up. I don’t expect any urgencies.”
How to write a sick-day out-of-office message
In addition to writing a sick-day email for your manager and colleagues, it’s also helpful to set up an out-of-office automatic response on your email and potentially any work phone number voicemail. Because this message will go to everyone who emails or calls you, you can be as conservative as you’d like with information. If you have clients, you might just say that you’re out of the office instead of explaining that you are sick.
Thank you for reaching out. I’m away from the office today, so please expect a delay in my response. If you have an emergency, please reach out to my supervisor, Mary Mullins, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be back in the office for regular working hours Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Thank you for your patience,
Sick-day email sample
The following is an example of a sick-day email:
I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that I will be staying home from work today. Unfortunately, I developed a stomach bug that has made it very difficult to get work done. I went to urgent care last night and was told it should subside within 24 hours. I do not expect to be online throughout the day.
While I do plan to be back in the office tomorrow, I’ve asked Kelly to take over for me today in case any emergencies arise. I had an important call scheduled with a supplier, but Daniel has agreed to manage the meeting.
Please let me know of any additional steps you’d like me to take to ensure the day runs as smoothly as possible in my absence.
Related: 6 Acceptable Reasons To Call in Sick
Frequently asked questions
How long is a sick-day email?
Keep your sick-day email brief, one to three paragraphs. In your email, include the following elements succinctly:
Reason for taking a sick day
The number of days you expect to be off work
Whether you plan to perform some tasks remotely, such as answering emails
The name of the person who can handle urgent tasks or assignments in your absence
Do you apologize for taking a sick day?
In your email, you may apologize for missing work. While you can't control whether you get sick, providing a short apology can help you appear professional. An apology also shows respect for your colleagues, who may do extra work to cover your responsibilities while you're absent. For example, you may write, "I apologize for the inconvenience my absence may cause today."
What's a good subject line for a sick-day email?
You can use a short, simple subject line for your sick-day email. For example, you may use the subject line "Sick day" or "Sick today."
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