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7 ways to take sick leave when working from home

Woman blowing nose - sick leave when working from home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Do you often forgo sick leave when working from home? It seems to be a given for remote workers now. We’re at home so surely we can keep working our way through illness? Nope, you really shouldn’t.

If you feel your employer still expects you to work through illness, you need to prioritise your health without feeling you’ll get into trouble at work. Read these tips and ensure you get to take some sick leave as a remote worker.

1. Call or message ASAP

As soon as you feel yourself coming down with something, let your manager know straight away so they are informed early and can plan accordingly.

Follow the company policy, so if they need you to phone and talk, do so. If you have a more relaxed manager/policy, you may be able to just send a message via your phone/Skype/Teams (which is easier for you).

If you can’t talk easily (sore throat, seriously ill) then have a family or friend contact your employer. That should send the message that you’re really unwell and out of action.

Pin this for later! – Taking sick leave when working from home

Sick leave when working from home

2. Check your company policy

If you feel your manager is still expecting you to work, check the company policy or check in with HR. There may be an assumption as a remote worker that you should carry on working, but that is not professional or ethical if you are really sick rather than just having a little cold.

Check your rights in your country or state too, so you are clear going forward. If necessary, gently remind your employer that you are entitled to sick leave, even if your contract allows you to work from home.

Also, mention that it is better you fully recover so it does not affect your ability to work effectively. I know for some of you this will be a delicate matter. You may be working in an unsupportive or regimented structure, and currently need that job.

So handle it appropriately, but do also make yourself aware of your rights because if you’re employer is abusing them, you may need to make a mental note to start job hunting elsewhere, as soon as you’ve recovered! One where you will be valued as an employer and treated well.

3. Put your out-of-office on

Let people know you’ve had to take time off and give an alternative colleague to contact, if possible. Alternatively, you might just want to put an honest note that you are unwell and will respond as soon as you can.

This will put your mind at rest and ensure everyone is aware of the situation. We all get sick and most people will understand that it will cause delays. If you have a good reputation already, they’ll know you will get back to things as soon as you can.

4. Let your manager know key tasks

If you can manage to type up an email summarising what you’re working on so your manager and team are informed, that will be very helpful to them. They can communicate the issue to any clients, customers and other stakeholders, or step in if necessary and cover you.

It’s important not to let guilt take over if colleagues need to step in. Ask for help. They will need your help too in return, at some point, for their sick leave or vacation cover.

This is why it’s important to build relationships at work and ensure you keep up good communication and connect with colleagues, even if you work from home. It’s similar to when you take other types of leave (holiday, maternity, compassionate) and need that support.

If you have those relationships in place and share your challenges and work projects regularly, others will feel more informed if they need to cover you, even briefly. And you can offer help when they need it.

Read more about how to take holiday or vacation when you feel too busy at work for crossover advice and tips on preparing ahead, so you can switch off.

Woman sick on sofa - sick leave when working from home
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels

5. Keep them updated

If you need another day or two, say so. If your GP or medical professional has suggested more time off, tell them and show evidence if necessary. Extended time off e.g. more than 7 consecutive days off including weekends, if you’re in the UK, means you need to provide a sick note from your GP.

In other countries you may have better or worse situations so as before, check your work policy and the local law. If you work for yourself, you probably struggle to give yourself time off and that is why you need to have a back up plan and see what you an automate to support yourself through tricky times.

6. Don’t offer to work before you’re ready

It’s easy to start feeling guilty and suggest people contact you when you’re off sick as a remote worker. But it’s a slippery slope, as you’re not giving yourself time to recover. Once you open that door, they may not leave you alone!

Of course, you may have really nice colleagues and management who just want to check you are OK, so make a judgement call on what suits you and your working relationships.

You do need to prioritise sick leave when working from home. However, if you feel you can check in and do the minimum as you start to feel better (and maybe getting bored!) then do that, while ensuring you’re not going to send yourself back to your sick bed for overexertion.

7. Just stop and prioritise yourself!

Sometimes we really need to just stop and get our priorities in order. If you are seriously ill, you need say no and take your rest. Taking time off now will give yourself a better chance of a full recovery, rather than batting through and then getting hit with another bug while your immunity is down.

In the UK, according to Employee Benefits UK, 65% of those that work from home, are less likely to take formal sick leave. This is staggering. Perhaps it is similar in your home country as we have all got accustomed to working through sickness, because we are already at home.

Final thoughts – Ways to take sick leave when working from home

Prioritise your health and ensure you take your sick leave when working from home. Find a balance if you really need to do a few bits e.g. sign on to send an email, then sign right out and close the laptop.

Make sure you get all the extra sleep you need to give yourself the best chance at recovery, and get professional medical help if necessary.

If you are seriously unwell, you won’t be able to even get the minimum done and shouldn’t have to. You may not even be able to communicate much. In this case a partner, friend or family member may need to keep your boss updated on the situation.

If you find you are often getting ill and are close to burn out and feeling overwhelmed you need to recognise the signs early and take care of yourself. Ensure you practice self-care while working from home.

Remember, it may be your mental health and not just your physical health that requires some time off, so do take care of yourself and speak with a medical professional if needed.

Do you take sick leave when working from home? Or plough through? Comment below.

Pin this for later – Ways to take sick leave when working from home

Sick leave when working from home

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. This site is not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information.


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