Should you call in sick if you work from home?

RemoteWorker asked execs, managers and HR across the UK what they think about their remote or hybrid employees calling in.

Most agreed that it’s absolutely A-OK!

It happens to even the best remote worker: you’ll be fine one day but suddenly wake up completely under the weather the next. If it’s your first time, you may even reach for the phone to call your boss only to be hit with the realisation — you’re already home.

So, how does calling in sick work? Should you call in? Can you?

A lot of remote and hybrid workers say they feel guilty about taking a sick day when they’re already not required to physically come into office.

The feeling is so widespread that studies have shown remote workers take next to no sick days at all when compared to their in-office counterparts.

So, asked business leaders across the UK what they think, and most agreed: if you don’t feel well, take some rest. Period.

Don’t worry about being “sick enough”

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“If you wouldn't go into the office with your bug or illness, then you shouldn't turn on the laptop." (Photo by Andrew Lozovyi on Deposit Photos)

Not only did most of the business leaders we spoke to say remote workers should kick guilt to the curb when it comes to calling in sick, but one Founder said it’s “flawed” to think you’re “not sick enough”.

“If you wouldn't go into the office with your bug or illness, then you shouldn't turn on the laptop,” said Darren Kingman, Founder of TheRemoteOfficeGuide.

“I think it's a flawed understanding of remote work to assume someone should work from their laptop from bed because they're ‘not quite sick enough’.

“People need time to rest and then they can come back to their desk, wherever that may be, and get back to doing great work.”

You’re not “slacking off”

Caroline Reidy, Managing Director of The HR Suite, also encouraged remote workers to fight the urge to think of themselves as “slacking off” when they’re sick.

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Most managers said sick remote workers should just focus on getting better. (Photo by Andrew Lozovyi on Deposit Photos)

“Remote workers can easily fall into the mindset of having a lazy day and doing the bare minimum amount of work, but they are still working,” she said.

“In this scenario, you are not truly resting — you will be waiting on edge for that Teams ringtone or constantly moving the mouse.”

Reidy said remote and hybrid workers should instead throw in the towel when they feel sick instead of trying to power through, and Martin Seeley, CEO & Founder of Mattress Next Day, agreed.

“It's important to remember that taking a sick day doesn't mean you are shirking your duties; it means you are taking care of yourself,” he reassured remote workers.

Chances are, your boss gets it

Another common point raised by managers was that your boss likely sympathises with you needing to take a sick day, and they would rather you rest than get burned out.

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Most remote workers are allowed to take time off when they're sick. (Photo by Andrew Lozovyi on Deposit Photos)

Kingman said, “People aren't productive when they're sick, and they will make poor decisions. So, it's in a business's best interest to encourage people to rest and recover.”

In fact, he asserted that businesses that force remote staff to work when sick “are only going to burn out their team and likely lose trust too”.

This is the very same reason why David Cohen, CEO of Love Rose, a major online flower delivery service that is open 24/7, said he makes extra effort to ensure his team can take sick days as needed.

“Encouraging employees to take sick days when needed can lead to higher job satisfaction and a more positive company culture,” he said.

Just communicate with your team

Generally, most business leaders said “yes” to their remote teams having permission to take sick days. But one Business Developer said there can be exceptions.

“It depends on a variety of factors, including company policies, the severity of the illness and the employee's personal circumstances,” said Helena Salazar, Business Developer at Remote Team Solutions.

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Don't go AWOL: let your team know if you need a sick day. (Photo by Igor Vetushko on Deposit Photos)

For example, she said some remote workers may not have the privilege of being able to take a sick day if they don’t have paid sick leave, or if they have caregiving responsibilities.

She suggested that if you’re on a tight deadline, you might consider taking one for the team.

But even still, Salazar generally agreed that taking a sick day is fine for remote workers. What matters most, she added, is that you communicate and let your team know what’s going on.

“Prioritising health and well-being, setting clear boundaries and communicating with colleagues and managers can help to ensure that taking a sick day is effective and beneficial for both the employee and the company,” she said.

So, relax: your boss probably won’t expect you to crawl to the couch to answer a few emails if you’re feeling under the weather as a remote worker.

Just communicate with your team and focus on feeling better so you can get back on your A-game when you do!

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