How to Take a Sick Day Like a Boss

Five things you should do after calling in sick.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

As you’re getting ready for bed, you suddenly realize you’re more tired than you should be. When you wake up, last night’s fatigue has become this morning’s cold.

You’re sick. Whether it’s just a little congestion or you’re flat on your back, the next few days aren’t going to go as planned.

Sweats it is. That couch looks so comfortable, and that tub of Tillamook ice cream is calling your name. You text your team to let them know you’re taking a sick day.

Now what, productivity warrior? If you stop here, you’re going to come back to a backlog of work that built up while you were gone. It’s enough to make you sick to your stomach, if you aren’t already.

Would you rather come back to a clean slate, well-rested and ready to go? Here are five more things you might want to do before you collapse on the couch.

  1. Clear your schedule. Cancel, decline, or reschedule your meetings for the day. Your team may know you’re out, but others won’t.
  2. Set an out-of-office message. If you can do it from home, update your out-of-office message. Give an estimate of when you’ll return.
  3. Defer or delegate every task you possibly can. Psychologically, this makes a huge difference. You need to give yourself permission to do nothing. Most things will wait until you’re feeling better; defer those tasks for a couple days, being careful not to pile everything onto the first day you’re back. If something absolutely can’t wait, then ask someone else to take care of it.
  4. Rest. Whatever you had on your list for the day, you have a new big rock that goes right at the top: get better. That is your job today. Stay quiet. Binge watch TV. Read a book (fiction). Play video games. Stay hydrated. Let your body tell you what you’re hungry for.
  5. Know when to bring in an expert. Getting well is a project. Like any project, bringing in an expert can dramatically reduce the amount of time a project takes. Don’t tough it out and make it drag on. Know when it’s time to go see a doctor.

I know it can be hard to stop and “not do anything” when you’re sick. You didn’t have enough time to get everything done when you had all 168 hours in play. How are you still going to get it all done after losing a day? Or two? Or five?

You’re not. Even if you had margin built into your schedule, you’ve got to rearrange your week now. Start with the gravel and start deferring.

Sometimes, getting sick is your body’s way of telling you to stop, or slow down. Sometimes, it’s just rotten luck. Sometimes, you can’t do everything you want to. Sometimes, you get out of things you didn’t want to do anyway.

Any way you slice it, you’re going to feel miserable for a bit, and you’re going to spend some time on the bench. You can still be proactive! Getting well is a Q1 task that gets assigned to you on short notice. Make room for it.

Question: How do you get the rest you need when you’re out sick? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.