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How to Write a Sick Day Email

The alarm clock rings, but you’ve already been up for hours tossing and turning with a fever or running to the bathroom with an upset stomach. Despite trying desperately to get some sleep, you’ve had no luck, and going to work sounds about as enjoyable as a root canal right now. It’s time to use one of your hard-earned sick days.

Here’s how to write an email that lets your team know you’ll be out of the office and keeps interruptions at bay so you can get some much-needed rest. 

What is a sick day email

A sick day email is an official notification that you’ll miss work because you’re under the weather. If your company offers paid sick leave, this email serves as documentation that you’re using one of your allocated sick days. 

Why it is important to send a sick day email

A sick day email tells your boss and colleagues not to expect you in the office. This prevents any confusion or concern about your whereabouts. It also gives your boss some lead time to plan for coverage if your role necessitates it. 

It’s important to send a sick day email to create a record of your being out sick in case you need to refer back to it in the future. Your message sets expectations about how long you’ll be out and what colleagues should do in your absence if there’s an urgent need. 

By letting your teammates know you’re ill, they’ll be more likely to give you the space you need to recover and save non-urgent calls and emails for when you’re back to feeling 100%.

When you should send a sick day email

When you’re sick

To state the obvious, it’s a professional norm to send an email when you’ll be missing work because you’re sick. It’s appropriate to take a sick day when you feel too sick to give work the proper attention, and/or when your illness can potentially infect others.

When you have another legitimate reason

You don’t have to lie on the couch eating chicken noodle soup to take a sick day. You may need to use the time for other health-related activities like doctor’s appointments, as well as attending to your mental health. Some states guarantee parents the right to use their sick days to care for sick children. 

Unless your employer requires a doctor’s note, your sick time is yours, for use at your own discretion. 

As early as possible on the day you will be out

Give your employer as much notice as possible on the day you’re sick. This allows them time to accommodate your absence if needed. 

In most cases, requesting a sick day in advance is inappropriate–this is what PTO is for (although norms around this are changing as some employers move toward lumping PTO and sick leave into one discretionary pool of time off). 

What to include in a sick day email

The fact that you’ll be absent

Begin by stating that you’re under the weather and will be out of the office. Include the date for clarity.

How long you will be out, if known

If you’ve just tested positive for COVID-19, for example, you can expect to stay home at least a few days.

Whether you’ll be able to respond to emails

This will depend on how sick you’re feeling and how reasonable it is to step away from your workload.

Any need-to-know details

Share helpful information that will mitigate the need for people to contact you, like contact info for a co-chair who can answer questions on a shared project or a notification that you’ll be rescheduling all meetings on your calendar.

Documentation (if required)

I.e. a doctor’s note.

What to omit in the letter

Too much information

Keep your email short and sweet. Fewer details are better than too many.

Sample sick day emails

Formal example

Mr. Havershaw, 

Unfortunately, I have the flu and must take time off to recover. I started to feel ill over the weekend, and last night visited urgent care, where I tested positive. A doctor’s note is attached. 

I plan to use sick days today and tomorrow, November 11-12. HR is copied here. 

I will check my email periodically while I’m out, but my accounting colleague Daniel Stevens should be able to fill in to answer any urgent questions. 

Many thanks for your understanding,


Informal example

Hi Bill,

I woke up feeling sick and will be out of the office today, June 4. If anything urgent comes up, please text me at 555-212-2122.



Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to apologize for any inconvenience caused by your absence, like if someone will have to cover your shift. It can also be helpful to send a follow-up email at the end of the day if you’re feeling better and plan to be back in the office tomorrow.