FAQ: What Should You Do When You’re Sick at Work?

Everyone has days when they feel too sick to go to work. Many of us also have days when we need time off but aren’t actually sick. Sometimes, we may use sick days to cover the gap.

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Common reasons for not taking a sick day

There are some employees who arent able to stay home from work when theyre sick. Though its highly recommended to stay home due to illness, you are not legally required to do so. There arent any federal laws that say employers must provide sick leave to their team members, but some may vary among states. Because of this, employees may feel obligated to come to work to still be able to earn a paycheck that day. Other common reasons employees may work while theyre sick include:

What should you do when you start feeling sick at work?

If you start to feel sick at work and your symptoms feel so severe that youre having trouble focusing on conversations or your work duties, its typically best to go home and rest or schedule an appointment with your doctor. Some people may feel slight symptoms of a cold, like a sore throat or a small ongoing cough. Others may have a painful headache or upset stomach. Actions to take when you feel sick at work include:

What can you do to minimize coworkers’ exposure?

It may be challenging to stay away from other coworkers throughout the entire workday. You should still try your best to minimize your exposure to as many employees as possible to reduce the chances of infecting others. Some strategies you can try to limit your exposure at work include:

What should you do if you can’t stay home?

If youre unable to stay home, notify your supervisor of your health status. Since its best to limit your exposure to others, your manager may allow you to stay in your work area and away from people throughout the day. If you have your own office, you can shut the door and notify your coworkers via email or your business communication platform that youre feeling ill. This keeps team members from entering your office area and gives them the option to call or email you with any work-related questions or concerns.

You can also conduct virtual meetings from your office. If you dont have your own office space, ask your manager if you can reserve a meeting room for the day to work there by yourself.

When should you go home?

Its best to go home if you have a fever. You should stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. If youre feeling especially nauseous or are vomiting, try to go home and rest as well. Youre typically the most infectious when youre feeling severe symptoms, so its best to keep these illnesses from reaching others. Staying home and away from coworkers helps you keep it from spreading to people with higher health risks.

How can you prevent yourself from getting sick at work again?

There could be many other people at work that are symptomatic and contagious without you knowing it. Luckily, if you take care of your body well enough each day, you can lower the likelihood of getting sick again. Use these tips to keep yourself healthy and to reduce the chances of catching another illness at work:

1. Drink plenty of water

You should typically drink six to nine cups of water a day to keep your body healthy, at a normal temperature and well-hydrated. Keep a water bottle at your desk at all times and take it into meetings with you. Getting into the habit of regularly drinking water can help your body stay hydrated and less at risk of feeling severe symptoms if you start to get sick.

2. Get a healthy amount of sleep each night

Getting enough sleep can improve your mental and physical health. You should aim to get around seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Receiving a good amount of sleep can help you feel more energetic and able to focus since it supports a healthy and well-functioning brain. Gaining the proper amount of sleep also keeps your immune system healthy, which helps your body fight various infections and illnesses.

3. Immunizations


What do I do if I get sick at work?

What should you do when you start feeling sick at work?
  1. Notify your supervisor. Meet with your supervisor to let them know you’re feeling ill and head home once you receive their approval to do so.
  2. Let other coworkers know you’re out of the office. …
  3. Ask to work from home.

Is it illegal to be sick at work?

Is working while sick illegal? It’s technically not illegal to go to work when you’re sick, but you should avoid doing so if you can, especially if you’re experiencing severe health conditions.

What is a good excuse for being sick at work?

9 Good Excuses to Call Out of Work
  • You’re sick. …
  • You’re caring for a sick child or family member. …
  • You have a family emergency. …
  • You have food poisoning. …
  • You have a migraine. …
  • You need to care for a sick pet. …
  • You have a last-minute dentist or doctor’s appointment. …
  • You’re having car trouble.

Can you get fired if you call in sick?

That means that unless you qualify for legal protections under FMLA or the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is nothing stopping an employer from firing you for calling in sick.

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