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I can’t prove it, but I am pretty sure there isn’t an expedited line to get into Heaven faster after we all inevitably perish. And if there is, it definitely isn’t for people who pride themselves on never calling out of work and embracing the corporate grind. There are no gold stars or afterlife rewards for burn-out. But there IS an antidote in the form of believable excuses to call out of work.
When it comes to capitalism, the bottom line will always be profit and employee productivity—maybe that’s why union representation petitions have increased 57 percent in the last six months. Personally, I don’t care why you need to call out of work. I’m not a cop—live your life. I think the fact that we have to ask other people’s permission on whether something is ‘worthy’ of missing work is pretty gross, personally, and you’re the only person who can really determine if you are able to work in a healthy, reasonable, capacity without endangering yourself or others.
Your work should support your personal life, not the other way around. As Beyoncé says, “Damn, they work me so damn hard.”
Know Your Rights
First thing, everyone (in the US) should check out the FMLA Act Employee Guide in order to fully understand their rights. (Other countries should also check in with their jurisdiction’s labor laws and stay up to date with any and all updates.) Paid vs. Unpaid Leave varies by employer, state, etc. Educate yourself now so you aren’t faced with unhappy financial surprises.
- Use an uncomfortable and/or deeply personal excuse It’ll make it harder for coworkers, HR/admin to ask direct questions because frankly, it’s none of their business! It can be hard to resist the urge to overexplain or justify yourself, and if you know you suffer from people-pleasing, this can be a deterrent from nosy Nelly’s getting all up in your business.
- Try a BORING excuse No one will believe you caught a rare skin disease on the Friday before a long weekend. Pick something unmemorable and common, and people will forget about it in no time.
- Pick something unforeseen and not your fault Steer away from excuses like ‘I need to sign for a package’ when that’s something that you can reschedule to non-working hours, etc. Bad planning on your part isn’t a great reason to call out of work, and can be used against you if you have a lame boss or toxic workplace culture.
Overall, provide the minimum amount of information needed regarding your circumstances, and communicate your unavailability and dates clearly.
And if you take literally any of the advice given here, let it be this: Email is the best form of communication when missing work. Even if you have to call, the call should be brief and refer to the email. Documentation is your professional best friend! I’d avoid texting, even if texting is part of your work culture. Having a professional method of communication is key, and will help clarify the boundaries between work and the rest of your life.
Without further ado, the most reliable excuses for calling out of work.
1. Personal Illness
My advice? Food poisoning. This illness doesn’t typically require a doctor’s note, and makes sense to give last-minute notice. There’s no pushback on this one, and if there is, you can just mix a whole bunch of really gross stuff into your toilet and take a pic to send to your boss along with a resignation letter. Have no mercy.
2. Plumbing Issue
Burst pipes, flooded foundation/basements, and sewer issues are dire enough to stay home for. Bonus: Most people can sympathize with the stress that comes along with these kinds of situations.
3. Family Emergency
Full stop. That’s all you need to say. If an employer trusts you enough to hire you, they should be able to trust you enough to determine what a family emergency constitutes for you. If anyone tries to pry, or even asks well-meaning questions, you are completely within your right to say, “I appreciate you asking, but I’d prefer to keep this situation private as it involves more than just me.” If they respond to that with anything other than understanding, you have my permission to eat their lunch.
4. Childcare issue/illness
Unless your boss is from the negaverse, they’ll understand that your kids and dependents come first. This is a definite instance of wanting to know how the FMLA/labor laws can support you, and understanding paid vs. unpaid leave at your workplace.
5. Dental/medical appointment
Most dental offices seem to keep 9-5 hours, which I love, because the absolute last thing I want to do on the weekend is open wide and drool listlessly for an hour. This usually will only grant you a few hours—unless you’re doing straight-up surgery, in which case, you might need a note.
Good management understands that employees have lives and other obligations. The key to retaining good talent (and sane people!) is by treating them with respect and trusting them to take care of themselves so that they can perform when they are actively working and on the clock.
Take care, and good luck!