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by Kayla Heisler via Fairygodboss | July 03, 2018


woman sick in bed

There are certainly times when using a sick day is a no-brainer. If you have the flu or food poisoning, the obvious thing to do is stay at home and call in sick. But what about the gray areas when you aren't actually sick but need a day away from work? To help you navigate those decisions, here's when it's okay and when it's not okay to call in when you're not really sick.


1. You’re Burnt Out

If you feel like you’re on the verge of snapping because you’re so stressed out, you could end up being more of a liability than an asset to your company. Unchecked exasperation is unhealthy, and taking a day to relax and center yourself means that when you return you’ll be better able to contribute to your team.

2. You Need to Take Care of Someone Else

Staying home to care for someone you’re responsible for should never be a source of guilt. If a loved one who depends on you for help isn’t well, using a sick day to look after them is completely acceptable.

3. You Have a Doctor's Appointment

I used to feel guilty about using sick days for doctor appointments. I appear to be healthy, but I have an autoimmune disorder that requires close monitoring and regular specialist visits. Whether you need to see a specialist every week or just have a basic dental check-up, keeping medical appointments is imperative to your overall wellbeing. Taking time to make sure all is well is always worth it.

4. You’re Grieving

Taking a mental health day is a completely valid reason to use a sick day. My take is that life happens, and when people show humanity, we are all better for it. If you have experienced a loss or serious setback that put you off balance to the point where you're unable to focus on doing your job, you’re better off staying home. If the issue is impacting you long term, consider contacting the appropriate channels about taking a bereavement leave.


1. You Need More Time on a Project

If you are running behind on finishing a project and you use a sick day, you’ll just end up causing yourself more stress and leave room for questions. In this case, it’s best to be honest with your boss and say the project is taking longer than expected. It could also indicate that you need more help with the project or should have more time in the future. Outright deception can hurt your boss, yourself, and even your career.

2. You’re Going to an Event

If you just received tickets or an invitation to a special event and are considering playing sick, definitely think before you make that phone call. There are many ways that your boss or coworkers could discover your indiscretion. From a wayward social media slip to a friend of a friend seeing you, skipping work for fun is a gamble you don’t want to make.

3. The Weather Is Bad

When it’s raining cats and dogs, the last thing you want to deal with is the morning commute, but if your sick days begin to coincide with unfortunate weather forecasts, the office will begin to talk. Invest in a solid pair of rain boots and a sturdy umbrella, and skip the sick day excuse.

4. You Have a Cosmetic Appointment

If you call out of work for a cosmetic appointment, don’t be surprised when your coworkers or boss eye you suspiciously after you show up with a fresh mani or your split ends have miraculously vanished. Schedule a weekend appointment or take a personal day in advance.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.