We’ve all been there. You felt fine last night but now you’ve woken up and you feel wretched. Whatever the reason may be, sometimes it can feel like your job life and your home life are at odds with one another. It may even feel like your health and well-being is in direct opposition to the responsibilities of your job.
Is Texting in Sick Acceptable? No matter what the status of your PTO and sick days may be, the way in which you handle the request for that time off will affect how you are perceived of as an employee. It is still considered to be industry standard to request that employees call their boss to let them know that they will need to take a sick day. Other forms of communication such as email or texting are considered less formal and rather unprofessional.
If you still think that texting in sick is acceptable, read on.
What if You Really Can’t Come in to Work?
Maybe you have woken up and just feel like you can’t face going into the office because you need a personal day to do some self-care. Maybe your kids are sick, and you don’t feel like you can leave them home alone all day.
Managing a work/life balance as a person with a career can be challenging. This can be especially true if you have advanced to a management position or if you are uniquely skilled and work alone on projects or tasks without any relief staff to take over for you if you are not at work.
Studies show that as many as 54% of employees who were interviewed stated that they felt that they could not take a day off without a good excuse.
The majority of these employees worked at companies that offered a combined sick and PTO program and therefore were less likely to be questioned about their use of sick or personal time. It is even more troubling to learn that a large percentage of employees also felt that they could not ask for time off to take a doctor’s appointment.
So, what do you do if you need a little time to recover from an illness or if you want to take an unplanned day off to relax and catch up on some sleep? Often, the way in which you ask for your sick day can be the difference between losing your job and keeping it.
The Proper Way to Call in Sick
Most companies are very clear when they hire a new employee about the protocol, they expect employees to follow if they need to call in sick.
New hire orientation typically covers this topic and if it is not covered in orientation, most employers will make sure that a new hire is told this information by their supervisor. There are protected sick days built into most company PTO policies and federal law governs how the company can police the use of these days by employees.
If you have used up your sick days and need to take another, most employers will grant you the use of your regular PTO to cover the day that you need to take due to illness. It is not until you have run out of all your PTO and all your sick time that you might be threatened with termination for continuing to need to take sick days.
Most employers feel that you have a phone on your person at all times since it’s the cell phone era, so there is no excuse for not making a simple phone call to inform your boss that you are going to need to take a sick day.
Image Credits: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/jul/30/sick-days-taken-uk-workers-fall-lowest-rate-on-record
What if you Hate Talking on the Phone?
The modern reality of cell phones is that all of us text everyone about everything all the time. We break up over text, we meet through apps where we discuss how we will meet up via texts. We even conduct business via chat rooms which are essentially also just texting conversations taking place in the business sphere.
So, can you text your boss to tell them that you are sick?
Often the answer is that it’s up to your boss. Every manager will feel differently about their expectations related to employee conduct surrounding sick days and PTO. Most employers will tell their new hires how they expect this type of conversation to take place. If your boss has stated that it is okay for you to text them to let them know that you are sick, then you are free to do so.
There are some caveats to keep in mind here, however.
It is not good policy to text in sick if you are at the hospital and you expect to have to stay there for an extended time. It is also not good policy to text in sick if you are on vacation and your flight has been cancelled and you will not be able to come back for another two days.
It is also not a good idea to let your boss know that you want to take an extended leave through text.
It is always good to use common sense with regards to casually texting your boss about using your sick time. Even if your direct manager is okay with you texting them to let them know that you are sick, their manager above them might not be all right with this policy.
At the end of the day, employees who behave professionally are always more likely to avoid being written up for the use of sick time and they are also more likely to advance in their careers.
Think About it This Way
If you have ever been broken up with via text, you know how horrible it can feel to receive a message from someone that you think might not be behaving in a totally up-front manner. It’s even worse not to be able to ask any questions or to judge the intent of the other person by talking to them face to face.
Just like other kinds of personal relationships, your relationship with your employer is important and deserves your respect. A good rule of thumb to live by with regards to your relationship with work is to always ask yourself if you would be upset if someone treated you in the way you are planning to treat your job.
If you would be upset by the action that you are planning to take, it is wise not to take it.
Respect is earned and lost through the actions that you take every day. Remember, you spend more time with your co-workers at your job every weekday then you do with your family. Treat your job and your co-workers with respect and you will flourish in your career and have a happier work experience every day.
Author Rune Vejby has written a book about the relationship between smartphone technology and the workplace called, Texting in Sick: How Smartphones, Texting, and Social Media are Changing Our Relationships.
In the book, he reveals that fewer than half of the 2000 Americans that he interviewed call in sick to work. The majority of those he interviewed said they used email, texting and social media to report in sick to work.
Image Credits: http://attentiv.com/we-dont-speak/
Vejby says that he understands how this shift has taken place. The millennial generation is more comfortable behind a screen when they are having to deal with conflict and there is little face to face interaction among people during their daily lives now that so much of work is conducted virtually.
That being said, he also highlights that it is easier to text in some bad news, such as a call in sick, so that you do not have to feel bad about hearing the distressed note in your boss’s voice. Texting also allows you to remove some of the personal notes from an interaction, which makes it more efficient, if more likely to be taken the wrong way.
Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, Vejby points out that cell phones are huge these days and are just not the comfortable for use as an actual phone.
Anyone who has tried to use their phone for an extended conversation lately will be able to concede that a huge flat tablet shape does not conform well to the side of a human face and speaker phone can cause distortion and confusion due to lag time during the call.
Vejby highlights some of the major problems that are caused by texting in sick to work.
- Trust is destroyed. A third of the managers that Vejby interviewed for this book said that they found it acceptable for an employee to text in sick to work. The remaining two-thirds felt that texting in sick to work was rude and showed a lack of respect for the job.
This negative feeling was even stronger for those managers who had not yet been able to talk to an employee about how they expected a sick call to be done.
While it might seem to younger employees that texting is the same as other forms of communication, it is important to remember that your boss or manager will likely be older than you and will also likely have a different set of values about these conversations.
Managers tend to assume that all employees know the “rules” about texting as a means of delivering important information in a work environment when really, the younger employees may not have been aware that their boss expected a phone call rather than a text.
- You will feel bad later. Vejby reported that most of the workers that he interviewed who texted in sick to work felt bad about it after the fact and wished they had handled the situation differently.
He said that psychologically, people who are able to handle face-to-face interactions successfully feel better about themselves overall. Success in these type of situations makes them feel a sense of pride and a sense of competence that carries them forward in their personal and job life toward new highs.
- Workers who do not learn to navigate these situations are missing out on learning opportunities. Vejby feels that face-to-face interaction teaches life skills. Learning to interact successfully with people who are not just like you and who are perhaps not on the same page as you teaches you important life skills that will come in handy at other times in your life.
Texting does not allow any of these skills to be put to use and sometimes texting even causes misunderstandings that would never be possible face-to-face.
Texting does not allow for any personal inflection to be communicated during the conversation and can cause the most simple of statements to be taken incorrectly by the person on the other end of the conversation.
Excuses Won’t Fly
One of the risks that you open yourself up to when you text in sick to work is the temptation to make outlandish excuses that will immediately appear to be suspect to anyone on the other end of the message.
If you MUST text in sick to work, you should always stick to the truth. If you do not want to explain the entirety of your reasons for staying home, just stick to the part of the truth that you can honestly reveal without having to share things you do not want to be known by your boss.
Always remember too, that your boss is a person as well and that they might be more sympathetic to your needs that you are expecting them to be.
Employers often actively try to work with their employees to help them to remain employed even if they need to take an extended leave of absence or need some further help that will make it possible for them to keep their job.
Some excuses that have actually been used by employees texting in sick:
- There was a bear in my yard.
- I did not remember to gas up my car.
- My dog swallowed my car keys.
- My phone exploded.
- I think I ate a toothpick.
- My uniform doesn’t fit so I can’t come to work today.
Needless to say, these type of excuses will not seem like anything other than what they are: excuses. If you need to text in sick and you are not actually sick, just say that you are not feeling 100% and that you need to take a day off.
Sticking closely to the truth will also mean that you will not slip up later and make it clear that you really were not sick when you did not come in to work.
If You Are Sick
More and more employers are reporting that workers are coming to work sick to avoid using their PTO for actual sick days.
Remember that you are going to expose other people you work with to your illness. Resist the urge to think that you are the only person who can do your job and that you must come in to work even if you are very sick.
Not only is this attitude unfair to your fellow employees, but it is also unfair to you.
Your health matters and pushing yourself to work when you are very sick means that you might become ill enough to have to spend time in the hospital.
If you are out of sick days or PTO days and you are too sick to come to work, you should call your employer and not text in sick. As mentioned before, your company and your boss will likely want to help you to keep your job.
It is expensive to both fire and hire employees and it does not make sense for your employer to fire you if you have communicated with them about your needs effectively.
No matter how tempting it might be to take a personal day when you really just don’t feel like going to work, remember that your job is a commitment that is worthy of your consideration just like the important people in your life and your own personal time.
If you dislike your job so much that you feel like calling in sick every day, consider changing jobs. If you feel that you cannot take any sick days because you will get in trouble, you should consider looking for a new job.
Try to give your boss the benefit of the doubt and communicate about your needs if you are having issues that require that you might need to take an extended period of time off.
Trust is a two-way street and it is difficult to build trust with your employer if you are not willing to communicate with them face to face.
As inconvenient as a phone call may seem at the time, it is always better to talk to your boss directly rather than texting them. Treat your company and your boss the way you would like to be treated and you will find that your career will flourish and your sense of pride in yourself will increase exponentially.
Image Credits: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/10/16/study-finds-absurd-excuses-calling-sick-work/74044732/