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How to Call in Sick to Work: The Best (and Worst) Excuses

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Spryte has been an online writer for more than 14 years and enjoys sharing funny articles with readers.

Got the urge to miss some work and need a good excuse? We've got you covered.

Got the urge to miss some work and need a good excuse? We've got you covered.

Taking a "Sick" Day From Work

We've all done it. Oh yes, you have. It's just you and me talking here; I'll keep your dirty secret. You know how it starts: One morning you wake up, and it's too beautiful outside to go to work—or perhaps you've only just gotten into bed, and you'd rather not get out of it just yet. Haven't you earned a day off? When was the last time you called in sick?

In your head, you'll tick off the time, trying to remember the last excuse you used. Did it work? Is it recyclable, or do you have to come up with a new one? What possible, plausible reason can you come up with in the next half hour to wriggle out from your responsibilities? One by one, you think of a reason—tasting it, testing it—until you find one that sounds like it could work.

You pick up the phone, and while it rings, you get into character. By the time you hear the word "Hello?", your voice is a pathetic shadow of its former self, which is only to be expected when you are lingering at death's doorway. Yes! They bought it! You do a little Snoopy dance as you imagine a whole day doing anything but work!

. . . And then, if you are anything like me, you feel guilty for the rest of the day. But not guilty enough to fake a miraculous recovery and go into work. That would be irrational guilt, and I would recommend therapy for it.

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What to Say When You Call in Sick to Work

After nearly thirty years of being a member of this nation's workforce, I can say with pride that I've gotten the art of how to call in sick down to a science. And now, I will gladly share my expert advice with you. Trust me: These tried and true excuses work every time.

Not only that, but once you have perfected the technique into the more advanced stages, you may even receive bonuses, such as (but not limited to) get well cards, sympathy cards, flowers, congratulatory raises, and—my personal favorite—finding that somebody else took care of your work while you were out and now you have time to really screw off.

You Don't Necessarily Have to Lie

Some places expect you to call in sick once in a while. They've even made it so you don't have to actually lie as long as you use one of the familiar catchphrases. You might need a "mental health day," or you are "having a vision problem" (as in, you can't see yourself going to work).

Should you be fortunate to work for such an enlightened employer, you may not ever need to employ any other method. However, while some places might seem more advanced, their idea of how many sick days you might need may be in direct opposition to your requirements. It is wise, therefore, to familiarize yourself with other excuses—just in case.

Types of Excuses for Calling in Sick

We'll go through the following:

  • Bad Excuses
  • Iffy Excuses
  • Best Excuses: The Big Four
  • Expert Excuses

Bad Excuses

Perhaps you are a new member to the working community. In any place of employment, there is always at least one person that fumbles the ball when it comes to delivering a good excuse. They might lack the creativity, be confused into honesty, or—even worse—they foolishly over-embellish a story to the point that even the most gullible office worker knows it's a lie.

To illustrate my point, I give you the following examples of bad excuses.

  • Drunk: Unless you are a twenty-something year old hot babe or studmuffin that the office manager is hoping to have mad copier machine sex with, don't use it. It's just not as attractive coming from any other source.
  • Hung Over: Even if you are a twenty-something year old hot babe or studmuffin, don't use this excuse. Hangovers bring to mind things like...oh...vomiting. Most managers find that to be a turn-off.
  • Jet Lagged: This won't work because EVERYONE in the office hates your guts and is jealous of the fact that you actually went somewhere. They want to see you as you suffer from sleep deprivation. It serves you right for leaving them to take care of your work...
  • Sprained Ankle: (This also applies to any other injury of a non-cast-requiring nature.) While on the surface this sounds like a perfectly plausible excuse, it requires serious commitment to see it through to the bitter end. Most people don't recover 100% from this sort of injury overnight, and you'll be forced to limp around the office for a few days upon your return. There is also a greater risk of having your excuse exposed as a sham by a wily co-worker. Use at your own peril.
  • Death in the Family: Baaaaaad excuse (unless it's true). For one, you are laughing in the face of fate when you use an excuse like this. How would you feel if, after pretending your sweet Aunt Erma died, she suddenly keeled over? Yeah, pissed! If you'd only waited a few more days, you wouldn't have had to lie! How inconsiderate of her. But beside that, in this day of rampant information, anyone can Google an obituary. It's not worth the karmic risk.
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Iffy Excuses

After you have been seasoned by a few years of gainful employment, you learn that the aforementioned excuses just don't seem to have the desired effect. You may want to try one of the following ideas, but because they are iffy at best, try to save them only if you've run out of better excuses:

  • Car Trouble: This one is rather tricky. If you live within convenient driving distance, you have to wait until everyone is safely at work before calling in or risk the chance that some overly brown-nosing employee is only too happy to come and pick you up on the way in. Why didn't you call in earlier? You were stuck out in the middle of nowhere and didn't have cell phone service of course! Do I have to tell you EVERYTHING? Just remember, unless you plan on taking a sledgehammer to your car, the trouble is always internal. If you work for an automotive mechanic...don't even dream of trying this.
  • Pet Problem: This can be as simple or as complicated as you want...and is only limited by your imagination. Fido ran out the front door while you had it open and is running amok in the neighborhood...you simply have to find him. Your cat ran out of lives and you need to take him in for a refill. Just don't abuse this excuse too much or you may arrive at work to find your co-workers have taken up a pet euthanasia collection in your name.
  • General Household Needs: This is a broad category that can cover anything from a flooded basement to waiting ten hours for the cable guy to show up. Everyone in the office can relate to life's little catastrophes and you'll garner a lot of sympathy upon your return. However, this only extends to situations that cannot be scheduled. If you are constantly working on your home during your work hours, you might find the former becoming a full time job.
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Best Excuses: The Big Four

And now, at last we come to what I like to refer to as my Big Four. These are guaranteed to get you out of work for at least a day without a ripple of repercussion. You may even get to enjoy the phenomenon of "sympathy sickness" once you have returned. Watch miraculously as your imaginary illness has ironically spread to other co-workers who have decided to take advantage of the current plague state. Don't be upset with them, you'd do the same thing in their position....

  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): This is the PERFECT getting out of work disease if there ever was one. Why? It's incredibly contagious and easily faked. You doubt the master...err...mistress? Try this...rub your eyes until they are nice and irritated...use an onion...have somebody blow smoke into your face...whatever it takes. Take a nice glob of Vaseline and smear it over your eyelashes so that it looks like ophthalmic ointment. There...instant conjunctivitis. Nobody wants to catch this...it's not pleasant...and you'll be dancing out the door as they follow behind you, disinfecting every surface that you have touched.
  • Migraine: Another easily faked and completely debilitating illness. Even if you have just a slight headache, just by scrunching up your face and going into the bathroom every few minutes to make retching noises you'll convince even the greatest cynic of your painful condition. Remember to rub your forehead frequently and insist weakly that you should stay. Nobody will even dream of your staying and you'll be ushered to freedom quickly.
  • Stomach Flu or Food Poisoning: These two go hand in hand. Your symptoms are vague...cramping, diarrhea (be explicit when describing this side effect of your illness), nausea, vomiting...perhaps a little bit dizzy. Is it stomach flu...is it food poisoning...hmmm...it could be either...maybe a bit of both. Nobody will want to take a chance and you'll be sent away to endure your misery elsewhere.
  • Non-Specific Illness: Some mornings you just don't want to go to all the hassle of sounding sick. The best you can muster is sounding weak...and tired. Probably because you stayed up all night having fun and you really are tired. This one can be fun especially if an office-worker is truly sold on it and helps you come up with symptoms because your brain is not functioning. Of course your co-worker understands, you've been up all night...throwing up, tossing and turning with a bad leg cramp, and your ears kept incessantly ringing...forget about work, go and get some rest...you poor thing.
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Expert Excuses

Once you have the Big Four mastered, you may want to attain the ultimate level of calling in sick with an expert excuse. These are not easy to attain. You must be inventive and yet simplistic, convincing and yet not too practiced, give details without sounding too desperate. At all costs, you must avoid anything that would send you to the doctor or lead to documentation of any kind.

  • Good Example: A tree has fallen across your driveway, and you are stuck until the removal service does their work.
  • Bad Example: Your building has just been evacuated because of a bomb threat, and you're stuck outside in your pajamas.

The first is simple and could happen to anyone, even though it didn't. The second is easily checked, and won't you be embarrassed when the reporter and cameraman show up to find it's a hoax and plaster your face all over the 6 o'clock news? Expert excuses are best left to the professional slacker.

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Good Luck Getting the Day Off!

Of course, you can always ignore my sage advice and go with the tried and true "my kid is sick and I have to stay home with them" or the ever popular and mysterious "female problems" if you are a woman.

The first one works for a while, until the child welfare authorities show up at your doorstep when your kid is sick too often. And sadly, the latter now has some competition due to the rapid acceptance of Irritable Male Syndrome as a debilitating illness affecting the masculine gender. I have yet to see a man call in sick to work saying he is feeling somewhat cranky and irritable, but it could happen.

Tips for When You Succeed in Missing Work

As always, if you want to clinch the deal regarding your day off, don't forget to volunteer your availability via the phone for any assistance that might be required. Just remember, should you decide to leave your home during the course of your sick day, engaging the call forwarding feature on your house phone is a wise precaution.

Good luck, and have a great day off!

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