Cold Call: The Fine Art of Calling in Sick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The U.S. Center For Disease Control reports heavy flu activity around the country, with 29 pediatric deaths attributed to what doctors are calling a “severe” flu season.

For workers who begin experiencing flu symptoms, the CDC advises staying home and not contaminating their colleagues.

That seems like sound advice, but way too many employees are reluctant to call in sick, even when down and out with a flu or cold. According to a 2012 study by business retailer Staples, about 80% of workers show up at the office even if they are sick. Additionally, 66% say they go to work even though they have an illness that’s contagious.

That’s not all. A report from Bloomberg says that the rate of sick day usage by U.S. employees is approximately 50% less than in 2006. That’s likely due to the economic downturn, as workers believe they can’t afford to take a sick day, lest they look like they’re shirking on the job.

That begs the question for U.S. employees: If you do catch a bad flu and can’t go to work, what’s the best way to “call in sick” and ensure your work is done while you’re recuperating?

Peter Handel, chief executive at Dale Carnegie Training, a New York City-based international business services outfit, offers up a “to do” list:

Be realistic. An employee should call in sick when their illness is still contagious and their productivity will decline significantly due to their illness. “If an employee knows the quality of their work will be negatively affected due to their illness, it is best for all parties involved to call in sick,” Handel says.

Cut yourself some slack. Staffers often feel like they're so vital the office can’t survive without them. That’s a mistake. “We encourage employees to take care of themselves when needed in order to ensure they continually perform their best,” he says.