It’s easy to call in sick when you have the flu. Boy, do I long for a nice bout ofthe flu.Fever, vomiting; these are the symptoms our culture has decided will both allow you to stay homeandexcuse you from the day’s tasks. Boy, does that sound nice. Even if you have a job that you can do from home, nobody expects you to bring your laptop with you into the bathroom. Food poisoning? Great. These are America’s rare gold-medal excuses: No one expects you to power through them. You are really, truly, excused.
The pandemic made a lot of people realize they didn’t want their co-workers’ (or friends’ or family’s) lesser illnesses like colds, either. (Not to mention the new awareness that greater illnesses can be disguised as lesser illnesses.) So now, slowly, maybe, hopefully, it’s also becoming normalized to stay home when you’re even just a little sick. For this cold that you could power through (and would have in the Before Times™), but now you’re nursing at home, I award the silver medal. You’re excused only if you’re lucky, but you also might feel guilty for skipping out on responsibilities when you didn’t “have to” rest.
Some colds are just the sniffles and don’t interfere with your brain and body hardly at all. You might appreciate an opportunity to stay home with easy access to orange juice, soup, and your sweatpants, but really, you’re still fully functional. You can sit at your desk and get your work done. You can do the dishes. For this mild, barely-an-illness I award the bronze — a potential work-from-home-free pass, but you’re definitely not excused from productivity.
I used to think I was coming down with a gold-level illness fairly regularly. For years, mostly in the winter, I’d sporadically get this weird not-flu that made me super fatigued and achy all over, but the runny nose, cough, fever, or gastrointestinal symptoms would never arrive. I’d just have this very-flu-like desire to crawl into bed and stay there forever. Cancel our plans, I am not moving from under this blanket. I want comfort food, or no food at all. Nothing helps. I’m just going to lie here and not move. I don’t know what this is, I just know what sick feels like and this is definitely VERY SICK.
Depression. Apparently this is depression.
And now I have an additional problem: Other people aren’t necessarily going to consider depression a gold-level excuse.
For years I kept the details of my sicknesses to myself, in hopes that other people would infer I had something more socially acceptable — like the actual flu — that would excuse me. My depression comes on hard during flu season, once a blessing that always aided my mild ruse. I could tell people I was feeling sick and they’d make assumptions and ask no follow-up questions.
“Feel better,” they’d say. “Rest up!” Gladly. “Get well soon!” Boy, I hope so.
COVID has totally ruined this. Now anytime anyone is feeling sick, people are on high alert. Is it COVID? The people demand to know. Have you been tested? Why not? What are your symptoms? When did they start?
Suddenly you can’t tell anyone you interact with in person that you’re not feeling well, or even recently weren’t feeling well, without proof of a negative COVID test or a willingness to explain that your depression is not, in fact, contagious. You can’t “feel sick” for a few days without being bombarded with questions and urged to see a doctor. It’s no longer socially acceptable to casually volunteer that you’re “not feeling well.”
I’ve hidden my depression under the guise of seasonal illnesses for years, but it seems that chapter of my life is coming to a close. If I don’t feel like telling someone about my depression (which is literally always), it seems like I can’t even bring up the fact that I am, in fact, very sick at the moment.
I hate it when people talk about taking “mental health days.” I think mental health is important for everyone, and being able to use sick time when you’re super stressed and just need to chill and focus on self-care is a great idea. But I think that concept gets grouped in with actual illness too much.
If I’m calling in sick because my depression is on overdrive and I can’t function, I am not taking a bubble bath and doing yoga and drinking mimosas and watching movies and painting my nails. I am not de-stressing and living my best life. This is not “me time.”
If I am calling in sick, it’s because I am unable to perform my work, because my brain and body won’t do it. I can sit my butt in my chair in front of my computer all day, but it won’t matter. It’s not happening.
A lot of people describe their depression in emotional terms, focusing on feelings of sadness, hopelessness, apathy, and the like. Maybe they’re weepy. Maybe their thoughts are super negative, hyper-focused on fears and what-ifs, even violent. The bad thoughts come for me, too, but the physical symptoms and how they affect my day are way, way worse. Only rarely will I cry, and even then, it’s usually because I feel, physically, so, so bad.
For me, during the worst stretches, the lights are on but nobody’s home. It’s total game over. My limbs are made of lead. It hurts to lift them to type. I can’t think complete thoughts. What am I supposed to be working on? I try to power through but nothing happens. How long have I been staring out the window? Am I dying? What if I feel like this forever? I am stuck. I can’t stand up. I can’t move. I should call out to my husband for help, but I can’t find my voice. I am a statue. I am made of stone. I am nothing.
“Mental health day” my ass.
I don’t think I’ve had the actual flu in years. If I’ve told you I was “coming down with something” or “not feeling well” any time in the last decade, there is about a 1% chance was a cold or the flu, and a 99% chance it was depression. For most of that time, though, it wasn’t even a fib. I was, in fact, coming down with something. I did, in fact, think it might be the flu. I was, in fact, about to get really sick. I just didn’t understand with what.
I’ve been feeling pretty sick for about a week now. It’s that time of year. If the shorter days don’t get me, a week of overcast dreariness will. And it’s not like I look outside and think “this makes me sad” — I don’t even notice the change in season until the sickness comes on. And then I remember: Oh right. October.
My day-to-day even mirrors a bout of flu. I might have an extra hard time waking up, feel pretty gnarly for a few hours, then take a 4-hour nap, then have a small burst of energy during which I wear myself out doing something simple like the dishes. Then I’ll sit back on the couch for what I intend to be a short rest, and won’t get back up for a long, long time. Then it’s time for bed, and after 10-12 hours of sleep, I’ll do it all again. Some days and some moments are worse than others.
Now I’m a freelance writer and there’s no boss to call in sick to, but the deadlines are still there, along with the expectation that I’ll meet them. But when I’m feeling really sick, it doesn’t feel like I have a choice: The time off happens whether I want to take it or not. I can sit at my desk and pretend to work, but nothing will happen. Lately I’ve been trying to power through more, which has just made it even more clear that I am unable to power through.
“Sorry I missed my deadlines,” I say. “I haven’t been feeling well,” I say. I type the words into emails and Slacks and they sound like bullshit to me, but that’s as much information as I’m willing to give. What would I even say? “My depression has been so severe I haven’t been able to move?” That’s a little… dramatic, don’t you think?
“I haven’t been feeling well,” it is. At least my editors are geographically distant strangers who won’t ask me if I’ve gotten a COVID test.
This week, as I’ve done so many other weeks, I spent way too much time Googling phrases like “how to get out of a depression funk” and “what to do when you’re really depressed,” hoping for some quick tips that would magically snap me out of it. Or at least make me feel like I tried something. But these answers, apparently, don’t exist. All Dr. Google says is: See your doctor if your symptoms persist for two weeks or more. Find a therapist. Take medication. Exercise more. Drink more water.
I know all these things. I’d love to exercise more, but I can’t get up, you see, for I am made of stone. I can’t refill my coffee cup because it hurts too much, you think I’m going to leap up and exercise? Ludicrous.
Now I’m bracing for my first winter as a freelancer, with no clue how to handle being sick. I’ll need some semblance of a game plan. Here goes nothing.
1. I’ll need to work ahead as much as possible on my better days, so that the bad days don’t result in so many missed deadlines.
2. I’ll need to admit to myself that I’m about to have a sick day when it’s starting, not when it’s over. The bad days will be unproductive whether I attempt to power through or not. Realizing this will allow me to tell my editors before I’ve missed my deadline that I’ll be late, rather than after. It’s still bad to miss a deadline, but it’s less bad with advance notice.
3. I’ll need to actually tell my editors when this is happening. Let’s practice. “Hi editor. Today is my deadline, but today I am sick and unable to complete the assignment. I will check in again tomorrow.” That wasn’t so bad, was it?
4. Quit promising to complete assignments soon when I’m not feeling better yet. I am TERRIBLE about doing this. “Sorry I missed the deadline, I wasn’t feeling well. I’ll have it to you in a few hours / tonight / first thing tomorrow.” I most certainly will not! Why do I do this? I must stop.
OK, seems like a reasonable list.
Today was a medium-bad day. I thought writing this out might make me feel a tiny bit better, and it did. I certainly don’t feel good, but my limbs are working, and I only got stuck a few times. I am not made of stone. I will email my editor and tell them, “today I am sick and unable to complete the assignment. I will check in again tomorrow.”
And with this, I guess my ruse is finally over.
*Yes, I know gastroenteritis (stomach flu) isn’t influenza. Don’t @ me.
**Yes, I’m on medication, though technically a doctor gave me that for “anxiety” when I couldn’t breathe and felt like there was an elephant on my chest. That got better!
***Yes, I take vitamin D in the winter. And have a happy lamp, which I should remember to use.
****No, I don’t have a real diagnosis, no doctor or therapist has ever seemed to care about that.
*****No, I don’t see a therapist. Last time I tried to get one it took a literal year to get a call back and get approval from my insurance and make a first appointment. U.S. healthcare is such a scam, I don’t have the energy to jump through the hoops needed to find a good therapist that won’t cost my life savings.
If You Need a Mental Health Day
There is no legal difference between taking a day off for mental health reasons to calling in sick with a physical illness or injury. If you do not feel mentally well enough to attend work, you should not feel uncomfortable about calling in sick to ask for a mental health day.
You are not entitled to any extra sick pay for a mental health condition, even if caused by work-related stress. Physical and mental illness both count as sickness.Can I call in sick for work-related to stress? ›
What are an employee's rights when signed off work with stress? In the event that an employee is suffering from work-related stress, they will be entitled to take time off from work, and provide evidence from a medical practitioner of the reason for absence as they would for any other illness-causing absence.How do you sound professionally when calling in sick? ›
- Choose the appropriate communication method. Familiarize yourself with any policies or protocols your organization has for taking a sick day. ...
- Act quickly. Let your supervisor know you're ill as soon as possible. ...
- Keep your team informed. ...
- Be honest. ...
- Follow up. ...
- Prepare for your return to work.
If you need time off for your mental health
Example: 'I have been having some struggles with my mental health lately. If I were to come into the office today, I could not provide anything near my usual quality of work. I'd like to take today off to be at my best when I return tomorrow. I appreciate your understanding.
Cyrus recommends keeping it short: "'I'm not feeling well today and would like to call in sick' — because feeling emotionally sick counts. Or, 'I'm unable to come in due to personal reasons. '"Is depression considered being sick? ›
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.Is depression classed as sickness? ›
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".Can depression be a work related illness? ›
Before you file a workers compensation claim for depression, you must also have a physical work-related injury that has caused your depression and/or anxiety. In California, you also have the challenge of proving that at least 51% of the cause for the psychiatric injury was caused by the events of employment.Can you get fired for being sick and calling in? ›
Furthermore, an employee can not be terminated for exercising his or her legal rights (such as their right to take a sick leave of absence).
- Muscular tension.
- Heart palpitations.
- Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia.
- Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation.
- Dermatological disorders.
Hi [Your Boss's Name], Unfortunately, I woke up feeling ill and am concerned that if I come into the office, I might get someone sick. I think it's best that I not come into the office today. That said, I can work from home on the projects I have going and respond via email and Slack to any questions the team has.Why do I get nervous calling in sick? ›
According to one Winnipeg psychologist, this anxiety to call in sick is likely related to social anxiety. “Many people who experience this may likely also experience other fears of letting people down or confrontation or general fear of negative evaluation,” said director of Clinic Psychology Manitoba Dr.How do you respond to boss calling in sick? ›
Thank you for your email. I'm out sick for the day, and while I will be checking my inbox, I may be slower to respond than usual. If it's urgent, please respond with “URGENT” in the subject line and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience!How do you respond when an employee calls in sick? ›
- Step 1: Acknowledge the Call and Keep a Record of the Absence.
- Step 2: Notify the Appropriate Parties and Limit the Negative Impact (Cost) of the Absence.
- Step 3: Follow and Enforce Your Attendance Policy.
Budget more time than you think you'll need so that the conversation isn't cut short. Be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, share that also. As much as possible, come with suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you.Can you call in sick to work for anxiety? ›
Anxiety, stress, or depression leave from work may require multiple days off, which is where FMLA may come in handy. This may be enough time to seek more intensive treatment if needed or time to relax and seek support. However, if you are thinking “can I get a sick note for anxiety”, the answer is yes.Can you miss work due to anxiety? ›
Yes. Assuming that you work for a covered employer and are eligible for FMLA leave, you may take leave if you are unable to work due to a serious health condition under the FMLA.Does mental break count as a sick day? ›
Using a personal or vacation day for mental health or self-care is generally accepted. Some employers may also consider sick days appropriate to use for emotional wellness. They might compare feeling depressed or highly anxious to having a headache or stomach problem.Can you use sick days for mental? ›
California's paid sick time law gives workers sick time that can be used to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; to seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; to care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or to address needs that may arise ...
The Mix: Call 0808 808 4994 (available 3pm to midnight, seven days a week) or text THEMIX to 85258 (available 24/7)What are the 11 symptoms of depression? ›
- Consistently low mood. ...
- Disinterest or avoidance of once enjoyed hobbies. ...
- Trouble with concentration or memory. ...
- Significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns. ...
- Decreased self-care. ...
- Physical pains and additional health issues. ...
- Feeling pessimistic or hopeless. ...
- Increased irritability or anger.
There are significant links between depression and exhaustion. If you are living with depression, feeling too tired to do anything is probably a common occurrence. When you are depressed, your energy levels tend to decline, with symptoms such as sadness and emptiness further exacerbating feelings of fatigue.Is emotional distress a sickness? ›
There is no clinical diagnosis of emotional distress. Anyone can experience it, and it can be a part of a mental health disorder. It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between emotional distress and depression or anxiety.What indicates a depressive illness? ›
Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include: Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness. Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters.Is depression a mental or physical illness? ›
Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite.Can a job offer be withdrawn due to depression? ›
You would need to be able to show that the employer has changed their mind because you have a mental health problem, and not for any legitimate reason that you may be unsuitable for the job.What are 3 workplace signs that an employee might be suffering from depression? ›
- Persistent sad and empty mood.
- Communicating a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, pessimism.
- Uncharacteristic drop in productivity or increase in absences.
- Signs of substance misuse.
- Fatigue; loss of interest in ordinary activities.
While quitting a job that leaves your mental health in a poor state may sound like a clear-cut decision, it's far from it. Financial and social considerations are critical to consider, along with the commitment—warranted or not—many people feel towards their employer.Do you have to tell work if you have depression? ›
If you have a mental health problem, you might feel unsure about telling your employer about it. You might feel worried about confidentiality or unfair treatment because of it. However, if your mental health problem is a disability and you want the protection of the Equality Act, your employer needs to know about it.
Calling in sick from home may follow the same process as an in-office request. Your supervisor or other stipulated workers should be informed. This communication can be made via phone call, text, or email—depending on what your manager has established as preferred methods of communication.Can you be refused calling in sick? ›
Can sick leave be denied? Your employer cannot stop you taking sick leave, however if you do not comply with their requirements for reporting this then you could be breaching the terms of your employment contract. This could result in a disciplinary procedure against you.Why do employees call in sick on Mondays? ›
While the biggest motivating factor for calling in sick is proximity to a holiday, the day of the week matters, too. The most popular day by far is Monday, with Friday being in last place for weekdays. One thing is clear: Workers across America have a heightened interest in calling in sick on the same days.What is the most common cause of absence from work? ›
Illness: Injuries, illness, and medical appointments are the most commonly reported reasons for missing work—though not always the actual reason. Not surprisingly, each year during the cold and flu season, there is a dramatic spike in absenteeism rates for both full- and part-time employees.How much can I claim for work stress? ›
Whilst the deduction may fall below the maximum of 35%, claimants can rest assured that any deduction from a successful stress at work compensation claim settlement will never exceed 35%.How do you know if you have burnout? ›
Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you're drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up.How do you tell your boss you're sick working from home? ›
Explain how you are feeling, and that you believe it will impact your quality of work. Your boss might ask for a few details, as they would with a physical illness, but remember that you are not obligated to relay anything too personal or insensitive.Can you request to work from home due to anxiety? ›
Reasonable accommodations for anxiety can include remote work, a support animal, a rest area, a modified break schedule, a flexible schedule, and shifts in schedule. The type of anxiety you have, your limitations, and your employer's resources will determine what accommodation is appropriate.What are medical reasons for working home? ›
People who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus have high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and compromised immune systems. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that these individuals are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” from their employers.How can I calm my nerves before calling? ›
- Pick up the phone. This may seem too obvious, but really, this is where it all starts. ...
- Smile. Physically smiling puts you at ease and makes you feel happier. ...
- Reward yourself. For those with phone anxiety, getting through a conversation is a big deal. ...
- Don't overthink it. ...
- Let it go to voicemail.
- Pre-empt with a policy. Having an absence policy means that you can be fair to your business and your employees. ...
- Oversee and observe. ...
- Spot a trend before it catches on. ...
- Talk it out. ...
- Make it formal.
Anytime you need to call out you should give your supervisor as much notice as possible before your shift begins, when possible you should contact your employer at least 2 hours before your shift so that they can plan and prepare for your absence.How do you sound genuine when calling in sick? ›
- "I just can't make it in today. ...
- "I don't know if I have it in me to work a full day. ...
- "I'd like to get some work done today, but I'm just too under the weather. ...
- "I think it's best if I just rest for a day or two, but I'll be sure to update you with my progress."
Have a transparent discussion with an employee who calls in sick too much and ask why it is happening. Be compassionate and understanding, as they may be dealing with a chronic health issue or have to take care of an ill family member. However, employees also sometimes take sick days when they are not sick.How do I write a mental health sick day email? ›
Requesting a Mental Health Day In Advance
I want to let you know that I need to take a personal day on , so I'll be out of the office. Of course, I'll make sure any pressing loose ends are tied before then so that everything runs smoothly while I'm away. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!
Most managers disapprove of employees texting them in contexts that fall outside of casual communication. For example, only a third of the managers Vejby interviewed found it acceptable for staff to report in sick by text.Can an employer tell other employees why you are off sick? ›
Unless a manager, supervisor, or human resources employee has a legitimate need to know, it's safe to say that an employer that discloses private medical information to other employees is breaking the law.Does mental illness count as sick leave? ›
There exists a misconception that sick leave accounts for physical illness/injury and does not go beyond that point; this is incorrect. Mental health issues/illnesses are given the same weight as a physical illness when sick leave is required from an employee.Is mental health a reason to leave work? ›
LEAVE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS UNDER THE FMLA
An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition, or to care for a spouse, child, or parent because of a serious health condition. A serious health condition can include a mental health condition.
An employer can fairly dismiss an employee on the grounds of incapacity, provided they follow a fair capability process and, where mental health issues amount to a disability, consider what reasonable adjustments can be made before deciding on dismissal.
You have the right to disclose at any time during your employment. You also have the right not to disclose. The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA)1 states that employers cannot ask questions that will likely reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer.Can you be mentally unfit to work? ›
A mental health issue can be considered a disability under the law (Equality Act 2010) if all of the following apply: it has a 'substantial adverse effect' on the life of an employee (for example, they regularly cannot focus on a task, or it takes them longer to do) it lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to.Is clinical depression a disability? ›
Depression is considered a psychiatric disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It's a significant mood disorder that's known to interfere with daily activities, which may include your ability to work. Depression sometimes becomes so severe that you can no longer go to work.How do I tell my boss I have a mental illness? ›
- Take the time to be kind to yourself and reflect. “Our negative feelings about our own mental health can be very strong,” says Dr. ...
- Rehearse the conversation. ...
- Discuss your work environment with your employer.
If you need more help, a supervisor might be the best person to talk to, given they may be informed about resources that could help with mental health. Human resources can be a good option as well, but be mindful that HR typically has the company's best interest in mind, Adewale says.How do I explain stress leaving my job? ›
It's starting to impact my health, and as such, I must tender my resignation. As you know, this is an extremely high-stress environment. Despite my very best efforts, I am not able to continue with this degree of elevated anxiety any longer. As such, I'm giving you my two weeks notice.What mental illness makes you not want to work? ›
Avolition is a total lack of motivation that makes it hard to get anything done. You can't start or finish even simple, everyday tasks.Can you get a sick note for depression? ›
Depression is a serious mental health issue, and in genuine cases, a doctor will issue a fit note. Follow the earlier advice—attend the first appointment you can, and speak honestly about your problems. You can take someone with you as a form of support to the appointment.What are the 5 fair reasons for dismissal? ›
A run-down of the most common reasons to dismiss an employee.
- Failure to do the job. ...
- Misconduct. ...
- Long term sick. ...
Employees generally can't be required to disclose a psychiatric disability unless requesting a job accommodation. Then, the employer can ask for some medical documentation about the disability. This medical information can't be shared with others in the workplace. Federal contractors.
Be positive – focus on what employees can do, rather than what they can't. Work together and involve people in finding solutions as much as possible. Remember people are often the expert when it comes to identifying the support or adjustment they need and how to manage their triggers for poor mental health.How do you tell your boss you're struggling with work? ›
“Say, 'I appreciate your trust and support. I'm trying hard, but I am still struggling,'” he says. If you “establish your good intentions,” hopefully your boss can support you in identifying and transitioning to a more suitable role.What happens if I can't work due to mental illness? ›
If you are unable to work because of a mental health condition or any other disability, there are some options for financial support. These include disability insurance and disability payments through Social Security. Disability insurance.