A complete guide to calling in sick if you want to take a break

Everyone needs a day or two from time to time to recover mentally or physically. Unfortunately, your employer would not appreciate your spontaneity – and with good reason. Fortunately, there is one thing you can do in this exact situation: call in sick. Of course, this isn’t a method you should use too often, but it can give you some much-needed rest. In order to be able to call in sick, you have to convince your colleagues the day before that you are really unwell and convincingly announce to your boss on the phone that you really regret having to stay at home to recover without becoming overweight to apply.


Make the call

Call your boss or supervisor early the next morning.

Don’t procrastinate – the sooner you tell your boss the better. Also, most of the time you will have a choked voice right after waking up, which will give you extra credibility. Also, if you call early, you may only get your boss’ voicemail or catch him/her unprepared. When you call late, it seems like you don’t care about your boss’s business. Keep the conversation short. Although knowing your “disease” can help you feel prepared, keep in mind that liars often give themselves away by feeling like they need to embellish their stories. Don’t go into too much detail — just say you’re not feeling well and can’t come to work. Give your boss just enough information to make him/her believe you, such as “I’ve been up all night” or “I have a terrible stomach problem.” You could also say something like, “I know I should have mentioned it yesterday, but I was hoping that after a good night’s sleep I’d be fine.” Without being too obvious, make it clear how much you were hoping to come to work after all.

Make sure you sound sick.

While you shouldn’t overdo it when calling your boss, there’s no harm in actually sounding a little sick. In addition to a hoarse voice from calling early, you might also slip in a sniffle or cough every now and then so your boss thinks you’re sick—but don’t overdo it. You could also talk a little slower or softer to show that you’re not quite on your toes. Practice this out loud so it sounds convincing. If you want your voice to sound extra hoarse, scream into a pillow about 10 seconds before calling. This will irritate your vocal cords, however, so be sure it’s worth the effort. You could also try to appear a bit distant or confused. If you answered your boss’s questions wide awake and particularly quick-witted, you would not be very convincing as a sick person.

Be prepared for questions.

Is your boss the nosy type? Try to imagine what questions he/she might ask you. For example, if you work in the catering industry, your boss might ask you if you have something contagious. He/she might also want to know if you’ve tried everything to still be able to show up at work. The best strategy would be to say that you are contagious and have tried every possible remedy (painkillers, antacids, lots of fluids, etc.) with no success. Also, casually mention that you called your GP and are awaiting a call back regarding an appointment as they are not available at the moment. During a cold and flu outbreak, it might be a few days before they can slip you anywhere. If your employer expects a medical certificate as soon as you get back, you can always claim that your appointment isn’t until the end of the week. This gives you enough time to go to the doctor.

End the conversation on something positive.

When you’re about to end the conversation with your boss, try to make as positive an impression as possible. Say that you will try your best to be fit enough to come to work by tomorrow and that you are grateful for his/her understanding. Show how dedicated you are to your work and how important it is to you to be able to get back to your commitments quickly without overdoing it. Make your boss feel like you’re really sorry instead of letting him/her know you can’t wait to turn on the TV and celebrate sick. You could even offer to your boss that your co-workers could reach out to you with questions if you think your help is needed. If you’re willing to be disturbed by co-workers during a fake illness, you can say, “I’ll be in bed all day, but please call me if you need my help.” Only do this if you really do think your colleagues would be lost without you. End the conversation by thanking your boss for his/her understanding.

End the illness

Still looking groggy when you go back to work.

After the sick day at your workplace, don’t appear like a flourishing life. Continue to act out your role by pretending you haven’t fully recovered from the disease. Blow your nose a few times and cough lightly. However, you don’t want to overdo it or act like a martyr who dragged himself to work half dead. Don’t mention your illness either, but wait until others ask how you’re doing. To appear more authentic, you should keep a low profile by saying something like, “I’m really not that bad anymore,” or “I just need a good night’s sleep and I’ll be fine.” If you want to be particularly persuasive, get only a little sleep that night so that you come to work the next morning exhausted and exhausted. This will boost your credibility the next time you call in sick (and you’ll have an excuse to stay up late). Be a little more reserved during the day. Don’t be overly friendly and don’t chatter too much with your co-workers. Also, politely decline invitations. Don’t forget that you have yet to gather your strength.

Don’t tell your co-workers that you faked the illness.

You may think that your co-workers are close to you and would never betray you, but you should still be careful when it comes to announcing that you’ve been sick. Your colleagues won’t want to cheer you up for it, but will think that you’re unreliable and just plain annoying. If even one of your co-workers repeats what you said and gets to your boss, not only will you get in trouble, you’ll never be able to celebrate sick again. Furthermore, if your boss learns that you faked the illness, he/she will be more suspicious once you are actually ill. After all, you don’t always want to have to justify yourself to the others at work. We all need a day off and we don’t want to be judged for it. Still, it doesn’t mean that you should brag about it or show that you don’t really take your work seriously.

Be friendly to your boss.

After you call in sick, you should be nice to your boss when you get back to work. You don’t need to mention the illness or thank your boss for his/her understanding, but you should work on showing a good attitude and sending positive vibes toward your boss. Remind him/her what an amazing employee you are and don’t let your boss have the slightest doubt about your illness. You don’t need to overdo your kindness or keep repeating how much you love your job and how much meaning it gives to your life.

Be diligent at work.

When you’re back at work after your fake illness, you should get extra deep into the work. This is not the day to be an hour late, two hours on the phone, or to book your next vacation. Instead, focus your entire workday on your work, contribute to meetings, reply to emails promptly, and do everything you can to make sure you make a good impression. You may love to complain to your co-workers as soon as you show up for work, but when you get back you should hold back and be a little more positive. After all, you don’t want your boss to hear you complain after you’ve had a day off. It’s okay to celebrate sick from time to time, but if you make it a habit, it could put your job at risk. Try to do as many of your tasks as possible with a smile on your face when you return.

Prepare for the call

Pick a good time.

You might think that any day is as good as any to celebrate sickness, but if you’re determined to fake illness, then you should put in a little more effort. If you choose the wrong day to call in sick, it will be much more difficult to convey it convincingly. Instead, you should therefore make sure that circumstances speak for you before you put your master plan into action. Here are a few things to consider: Be prepared to be particularly persuasive if you call in sick on a Monday or Friday. During a long weekend, it will be more difficult to convince your boss that you are really ill. Make sure you haven’t been sick recently or taken a lot of time off. After an argument at work or after making a lot of complaints, you shouldn’t directly pretend to be sick. You don’t want your boss to see your “illness” as an affront. It will be a lot more believable if everything was fine on the last day at work. Conveniently avoid missing a particularly awkward day at work. If your boss knows you hate those dreaded monthly meetings, then don’t celebrate sick on a day like this – no matter how good it might feel. Try to call in sick if someone else was previously sick or if there’s a flu outbreak. That way, your boss won’t be surprised if you get sick too.

Lay the foundation.

If you plan to call in sick, make an effort to appear sick the day before without being too obvious. Don’t fake a cough, act like you’re about to hatch something. Maybe throw in a sniffle here and there so that your co-workers will ask if you’re feeling sick, which you should brush off. Act like you’re sick but don’t want to admit it to yourself, lest your co-workers suspect you’re pretending. Laying this groundwork the day before will make it more believable if you take the next day off. Be a little more reserved that day. If you’re super energetic one day but call in sick the next, your co-workers would be amazed. Turn down invitations to lunch or an after-work nightcap the day before you call in sick. Try taking aspirin so “unnoticed” that your co-workers will notice. Blow your nose a little more often than usual. If you’re having lunch with your co-workers, don’t eat your entire portion to make it seem like you don’t have an appetite. Seem a little unkempt throughout the day. Wear your hair a little disheveled, don’t dress in your best outfit, and look decent but a little tired.

Know your illness inside and out.

Although your boss probably won’t ask you too many questions, it’s important to know what you have before you make the call. Rather than just saying you’re not feeling well, a migraine, a stomach flu, or a common cold is a lot more convincing. Be prepared to provide credible answers to any questions your boss might ask. This could include how long you have been feeling sick when you will be returning to work, and whether you have already seen a doctor. You don’t want to appear insecure about this, or your boss may suspect you’re faking it. If you want to take several days off at once, then choose the right illness. A migraine or a bad stomach flu can buy you two or more days because they are long-term and can occur at any time. Conjunctivitis or tonsillitis may last longer. Whatever you decide to do, do your research thoroughly so you can state the symptoms clearly. You could also practice the conversation with a close friend to make sure you get it right. Chances are, in general, your boss won’t go into too much detail to find out how your stomach or throat is doing, but it’s always good to be prepared for anything.

Prepare to take it easy at home.

You can’t call in sick and then go hiking with your spouse or throw a wild party for your friends. If you fake an illness and then throw yourself into social life, your boss will surely hear about it. Instead, you should only call in sick if you just want to lay in bed, stay home, and take it easy — which is what you would actually do if you were sick without feeling as bad. If you spend your day off outside and come back to work tanned, that would be quite suspicious. While you’re at it, it would be a good idea to unsubscribe from any social media you might feel compelled to check out while you’re “sick”. That way, on a day when you’re supposedly recovering from an illness, your boss can’t stumble upon photos of you hiking or read comments that make it appear like you’re in the best of health.


If you have something important to do at work but still want to take the day off, show up for work in the morning. Do whatever is necessary and keep quiet. If someone asks you what’s going on, just say you’re not feeling well. Once you’ve decided to leave, just approach your boss and tell him/her you’re sick and going home. Don’t ask – just say it. Explain to him/her that you have taken care of everything important for the day and your boss has no reason to say no anymore. If you go to the beach, don’t forget the sunscreen. Turning up red as a lobster at work the next day would not only be embarrassing but also very suspicious. Try not to call in sick on too many Mondays and Fridays – too many long weekends will catch the eye of your boss and co-workers. Calling in sick occasionally on a Tuesday is more believable. Also, don’t make it a habit to take time off on important days, like those when your team is particularly busy to meet a deadline. It would jeopardize your relationship with your co-workers, especially if one of the suspects you’re faking the illness. If you are really ill and need a medical certificate, ask the doctor to issue it for you a little longer than necessary. This means you can return to work “earlier” than the certificate states. You will be thought of as a dedicated employee who takes fewer sick days than necessary. It will also be documented in your personnel file and you could refer to it if you ever take a sick day that seems questionable.

Having a reputation for exhibiting a great work ethic would help you nip any doubts from your boss or co-workers in the bud. But if you’re rather lazy and always try to avoid work, you might find it harder to fake an illness in a credible way. On the one hand, if you have children, this can give you a handy excuse to take a day off. On the other hand, you might regret not having the option to stay home when they are actually sick – so be careful! Work on your good reputation. Go to work when you’re really sick so your boss doesn’t get the idea that you’re faking it when you decide to celebrate sick. Once you’ve been sent home a few times for showing up to work terminally ill (and contagious), your boss will be grateful when you call to call in sick, thinking you’ve finally taken the advice of others to heart did and stayed at home. Don’t plan a “sick day” in advance. If your boss finds out that you told others two weeks in advance that you would be sick that day, it could cost you your job. If you have a page on a social media site, remember to update your status — a simple, “Oh god, I feel so bad… I’ll make myself chicken noodle soup first” should do the trick. The last thing you should do is write in your status message that you went shopping, swimming, skiing or something like that when you’re supposedly in bed with a fever so high you can’t go to school/work! If you and your friend both want to celebrate sick, then you shouldn’t do it on the same day.

Read our blog to learn more about how to call in sick.


Don’t use the excuse that someone in your family has died, as your boss can definitely find out and catch you in a lie. It would damage your credibility in the eyes of your boss if a death actually occurred. If you end up needing more days off than you can count, then you should reconsider your career choice. It could be that you just can’t stand your work, or you could actually be wrecking your health because you’re too worried, stressed, or upset. In these cases, you should think carefully about whether you want to change your job or maybe even your career choice. Taking time off affects all of your co-workers. So think twice before you burden your colleagues with more work and leave them hanging. Many jobs in the United States have a No-Fault Absentee Program so employers don’t have to keep employees who call in sick all the time. However, it doesn’t matter whether you take time off or don’t show up for work for health reasons. It’s a points system, so you should get your “score” from HR from time to time. In Germany, there is no all-encompassing protection against dismissal in the event of illness, but continued payment of wages in the event of illness applies under certain conditions and vacation and sick days are counted separately. Celebrating sick isn’t a very good idea, since you’re putting unnecessary stress on your co-workers just because you’re lying. If you have problems at work, talk to your boss about it in person. Maybe he/she can help you. In the United States, federal law requires employers with more than 50 employees to complete an FMLA (Family Medial Leave Act) for the employee and any dependents as they are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. If you take an FMLA tag when you don’t need it and are caught doing it, you can be fired without notice. In Germany, the regulations on unpaid leave are usually set out in the collective agreement, in the company agreement or in the employment contract and can therefore vary.

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