6 Phrases To Use When Writing a Sick Day Email—Plus, What *Not* To Say"

Winter brings about a lot of good, positive things. Tons of holiday parties give you the chance to catch up with your friends and give you a reason to get dressed up. There are twinkling lights and decorations everywhere you go that make you feel like you’ve been whisked away to another magical place. And the festive events happening around every corner ensure that you’ll never be bored.

However, the colder months also come with some downsides. One specific example? You’re more likely to catch a cold. Because while there is a sense of magic in the air when the weather gets chilly, it also results in people getting sick with things like a sore throat, cough, sniffles or the flu.

That’s why it’s especially important that come wintertime, you know how to write the perfect sick day email in case you need to stay home from work. To find out what some of the dos and don’ts are, we spoke to Ana Martinez who works in human resources at InBrace Headquarters in Irvine, California. Over the years, she’s seen her fair share of good and bad sick day emails, so she’s breaking down some of the best and worst phrases ones, below.

Related: 10 Best Phrases To Begin an Email, Plus the #1 Way You *Don’t* Want To Start Your Message

6 Tips and Phrases To Use When Writing a Sick-Day Email

When it comes to taking a sick day, sometimes employees hesitate to do so. “I do believe that most people are nervous or anxious about requesting sick days via email,” Martinez shares. She says there are several reasons for it, including being worried they’ll get turned down, they’ll be judged for asking for a day off, their manager will be disappointed in them for not coming in, or they’re afraid they’ll write the wrong thing.

However, Martinez says if you aren’t feeling well, sick days are available for a reason and you should take them if you need them: “Your personal health should always come first, so you shouldn’t hesitate to take time off work to recover.”

To help you feel more confident emailing in and asking for a sick day, Martinez has six effective tips, as well as corresponding phrases you can use. That way, you’ll be able to send the perfect sick day email if you ever need to.

1. Be Direct in the Subject Line

The first thing your boss will see when they open their email is the subject line, so it’s important to write the right thing there. “The purpose of your email should be known right away by the subject line,” Martinez explains.

“It should include keywords such as, ‘Out today returning *insert return date,*’ or ‘Unavailable due to illness,’ or ‘Out sick’ with the date of your absence included.”

Related: Wellness Influencer and Bestselling Author Liz Moody on the Simple, 5-Minute Hack She Swears by for a Healthier Holiday Season

2. Mention Who Can Cover Your Work

If you’re working on something with a deadline approaching, it’s never a bad idea to ask a co-worker to be the point person on an assignment while you’re out.

“Going as far as having coverage for your workload and letting your manager know you are still available via email, rather than completely unavailable for the day, will show you’re professional and care about your projects,” Martinez says. “You can include that in your email by writing something like, ‘I’m sending you this email to inform you that I can’t make it to work today *insert date.* I’m experiencing *cold/flu-like symptoms* and would like to use a PTO sick day. If something urgent comes up, I’ll be able to answer emails, but please connect with *insert colleague* who will be in charge of my workload today to meet deadlines.’”

3. Include a Return Date

There’s nothing worse than getting an email saying someone is going to be out and not knowing when they’re going to return. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure when you’ll be back in the office, Martinez tells Parade that giving some sort of return date is always nice to include.

“You can write something along the lines of, ‘I am writing this email to inform you about my illness. I’ve been suffering from a *severe fever and headache* since last night. I am taking home remedies and hope to recover today, but I’m requesting a leave for today and will return to work tomorrow.’”

4. Don’t Go Into Too Much Detail

Your boss has a lot of emails to go through each morning, so don’t overwhelm him or her with a long one. Instead, Martinez suggests writing something short and sweet.

“Type something, like ‘I just wanted to let you know I’m feeling under the weather today. I would like to take the day to rest and will keep you updated on my progress later today to confirm my return to work tomorrow.’”

Besides being simple and to the point, Martinez points out that this is a great written email because it shows you are committed to providing updates, which helps your team plan accordingly in your absence instead of questioning when they’ll get their next update from you.

Related: Amanda Kloots Shares the #1 Tip She Swears by for Staying Healthy and Sane During the Holidays

5. Send a Reminder Email

Sometimes, you know in advance when you’ll need to take a sick day. In those cases, Martinez advises sending a reminder email because most of the time, the higher-ups in your office will have forgotten that you already sent notice about having to be out for something, like surgery.

“Even if you already requested to take a day off in a prior email, you should send a reminder on the day of or [the] day before you’ll be out,” she tells Parade. “It can say something like, ‘I just wanted to remind you I have my outpatient surgery scheduled for today. I expect to return to work tomorrow, but will let you know as soon as possible if that doesn’t seem feasible. In case I can’t return to work tomorrow, I filled my colleagues in on the duties that require completion by *insert date.*’”

6. Request To Work Remotely

In some cases, like when you have COVID, you’ll need to stay home to keep others from catching what you have. If you find yourself in that situation, and you’re not sure what to say, don’t worry—Martinez has you covered.

“Make sure you let your boss know what they should expect from you while you’re working from home,” Martinez shares. “Say something like, ‘I tested positive for COVID this morning and am having symptoms, so I’ll most likely be working remote all week. I am planning to work every day, but I may need to take some rest breaks throughout the day.'”

Martinez says this example email is great because it lets your boss know that your work will still be performed by you, but also gives them a heads up that they should expect it at a slower pace since you are sick.

Related: The No. 1 Surprising Sign of Workplace Burnout

What Not To Say in a Sick-Day Email

Believe it or not, there are things you shouldn’t do when writing a sick day email. Check out three of them, according to Martinez, below.

1. Don’t Leave Out Info

“Writing an email that only says, ‘Can’t come in today' is way too vague,” Martinez reveals. She says it’s so vague that you’ll end up having to send multiple emails, because whoever receives it will be confused and want more details.

“Your manager will question why you are unable to come to work, which will spark additional questions and lead to a back-and-forth email thread to uncover the reason,” she explains. “They will be wondering things like, 'Are they having car trouble? Did they sustain an injury?'”

2. Don’t Be Unclear

Brief emails are good to send, but Martinez wants you to know that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about writing one.

For instance, you should never write something that only has one line mentioning something like, “Need some time off, won’t be in.”

Besides sounding rude, it’s also missing a lot of key information. “This isn’t a good email because there is no date request, no timeline of absence to plan for, nor a reason for needing the time off,” Martinez explains.

3. Don’t Forget to Provide Proof

While you don’t always have to provide evidence that you’re sick, if you’re claiming that your doctor wants you to get some extra rest away from your office, you better be able to prove it.

“Without documentation, writing in an email that your doctor told you to stay home for a few days can’t be corroborated and can be taken as an empty request with no merit,” Martinez tells Parade. “This may cause denial of the request and subsequent consequences for missing an unexcused workday.”

Next: 11 Best Ways To End an Email, According to Communication Experts