The Ins & Outs of Calling Out Sick

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Being sick is stressful. Calling out sick is even more stressful. If you’re like me, you spend your entire day having anxiety that you called out sick. Should you have just popped some Vitamin C and gone in to work? But, if you had, you know you would have felt awful, and everyone in the office would look at you like you're a walking petrie dish. Even your work BFF would avoid you like the plague.

So, what do you do?

If you are really under the weather, you’re entitled to take the day(s) off. Most employers would rather you take a day or two to rest and recoup so you can actually be productive at work, instead of sitting at your desk hacking up a lung and drinking cough syrup straight from the bottle.

On the other hand, taking a sick day to catch up on your DVR is very risky. You’ll have to fake a cough for the next two days at work, and everyone will see right through it. You’ll end up getting caught in a web of lies about your “condition”, and you know your boss has radar for that kind of nervous chatter.

I hate to break it to you, but the people in charge can detect a faux illness a mile away. I asked a department manager for key signs that alert her that people are full of it. She says that if you set your alarm to wake up at 6am and leave a message when obviously no one is in … they’re onto you. And don’t overdo it on the hoarse, scratchy voice. (That’s a dead giveaway.)

Another key tip she gave was not to say you got sick from a barbeque -- that’s the most often used lie. But, she told me she always gives people the benefit of the doubt … unless of course they left a message at the crack of dawn, sound really hoarse, and claim they have food poisoning ... from barbeque.

Now, if you’ve been toying with the idea of taking a “mental health day”, also known as 40% Off Day at Saks, you're better off using one of your personal days for that task. If you ask your boss, he or she will probably say that you and your mental health will have plenty of time to spend together while you're looking for a new job.

And please, don't be the office hypo. People are going to stop taking you seriously if you keep calling out because you may have Ebola, Mad Cow, or worse — an infected paper cut.

But, if you honestly think you have a highly contagious illness, don’t be a hero! Stay home and spare your co-workers. Someone can cover for you. Go to the doctor and then park it on your couch in your Care Bear pajamas for the rest of the day. Watch The Golden Girls, feast on chicken soup and screen work calls. It’s really in everyone's best interest.

What it really comes down to is going with your gut (no pun intended for anyone suffering from the stomach flu.) If you won’t be at your best and brightest, stay home and "get well soon." But if you’re just a little under the weather, you probably can weather a day at work.

For more career advice, click here.

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