Calling in sick when you're already working from home

3 min read

Written by Meg Timbrell, Editorial Assistant at

Working from home is the new normal in 2020, and with sickness on the rise due to the colder months drawing in, when do you decide that you’re too ill to work from home when you’re already at home?

It’s tricky to know where to draw the line and say you can’t work, as it’s all too easy to join a zoom call and make a brave face, even if your lower half is wrapped in a duvet and you’ve traded your normal cup of coffee for a Lemsip. Plus, there’s no risk of infecting co-workers if you’re already at home, so why not respond to a few emails from home?

There’s a tendency to wonder if your manager won’t believe you when you ring up to say you’re unable to work from home, and it’s now far more difficult when you can’t get a doctor’s note or proof of sickness when you’re being advised to stay away from doctors due to Covid-19.

Our first piece of advice is to be as communicative as you can with your manager and co-workers. Let them know that you’re under the weather the moment you don’t feel well enough - you might be surprised at the response. If you aren’t 100%, they’re going to know that you won’t be producing work to the best of your ability, and you’ll be more likely to make mistakes. If anything, your manager should want you to get some bed-rest so that you’re sharp enough to work to your full ability once you’re better.

If you’re physically unable to get out of bed to do things like cook a meal or go for a walk, then you shouldn’t be working, especially if you’re on medicines that make you drowsy. Resting your mind is just as important as resting your body. 

So many people who work from home find it difficult to switch off, reading work emails late into the evening, right up until the moment they go to bed. This can make it even harder to admit to being too ill to work, being able to easily work from bed without anyone knowing you're not 100%.

Top tips for separating your work-space from your home-space:

Dressing for work

This doesn’t have to be uncomfortable clothing like a suit or a shirt, but ditch the pyjamas or loungewear and dress to be productive. Then as soon as your day finishes, change into something different so that your brain switches from work-mode to home. This could even be investing in a pair of ‘work-slippers’ and ‘home-slippers’. 

Technology and emails

One of the main reasons that many companies supply their workers with work-phones is to keep work and home life separate. Try and use a separate phone for work emails and social media. This is one of the most difficult ways for your brain to not fully rest after the working day. 

If your work won’t supply you with a separate work phone, try and designate certain time limits where you use your phone for work purposes (e.g. keeping within the normal working day of 9-5). Or, if you really struggle with self-control, there are many settings that you can set up that disable particular apps or email accounts on your phone which could be worth looking into.

Choosing your work space wisely

Where your mind rests at night shouldn’t be where your mind is busy during the day. This one is particularly difficult if you don’t have much room to work with and if you don’t have a proper office or study. If your bedroom is the only place you can work in, consider trying out local coffee shops as an alternative working environment, or sprucing up your desk space. 

Try and avoid working from a bed or a sofa, as this only makes the decision to call in sick even harder when you feel as though you can maintain your work from the comfort of your bed. 

Your well-being is number one. Listen to your body, communicate openly with your manager about how you’re feeling, and try and learn how to switch easily from work-mode to home-mode.


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