What are Legitimate Reasons for Calling Out from Work?

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Sep 23, 2022

When you’re working from home the number of reasons that you can use to call out from work are substantially reduced. 

So what are the legitimate reasons you might need to call out from work?

I spoke to the experts – business owners, managers, team leaders, HR managers and more – and what follows below is a list of the top legitimate reasons why people call out from work.

Real quick: before we get too far along here, if you want to get some great ideas for your home office and connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.

Your Boss Will Understand

You may feel a little guilty when you need to call out from work, especially if you work for a smaller company that may not have the manpower to back you up for the day. However, it is always better to take care of yourself when you are feeling sick as opposed to trying to tough it out at the office. Additionally, you run less of a risk of making your coworkers sick as well. The important thing is to talk to your boss so that he or she understands your reasonings for calling out. Most employers are more understanding than you would think, such as this landscaping business owner:

“Running a small business means my margins are tight and we’re always trying to do as much with as little as possible. That’s why it’s so tough when one of my employees calls out of work. It’s not like I have a huge roster that’s able to absorb being a man down but I still think it’s important to take time off when you need it. If one of my employees feels sick, I’d rather them stay home and not risk getting everyone else sick because that’s a real disaster. And if one of my employees is having a tough time emotionally or mentally, as long as they talk to me and explain what’s going on, I’m even okay with them taking some time off. What I need, no matter what, is clear and concise communication. Tell me what’s going on so we can fix it together.”

-Tom Monson, Owner of Monson Lawn & Landscaping

When Calling out from Work is a Non-Issue

As more and more companies strive for a better work/life balance, you may run across some employers who take little to no interest in the time you have spent working. Rather, these new-age employers are only interested in the work you complete. As long as you are able to complete all of your assignments correctly and in a timely manner, they will ask no further questions about taking time off. Brad Hall, who is the CEO of Sonu Sleep is one of these employers who wants all of his employees to be both happy and healthy.

“If you’ve got good time management skills and work for a company that promotes a healthy work-life balance, calling out isn’t really a thing. Get your work done when you can and when life inevitably happens and prompts a pause in your work, it’s okay to take a step back and prioritize your personal life. A good leader won’t ask for an explanation but will appreciate both your typically hard work and the fact that you’re taking care of yourself.”

-Brad Hall, CEO of Sonu Sleep

Organization and Contingency Permits More Absence

You may notice that you have more availability to call out from work if it is a more organized place to work. If there is always someone available to cover any last-minute jobs that come up, calling out should be no problem. You will not be leaving your coworkers high and dry, and the work is sure to get done. Likewise, you may notice that if your work is going through a particularly busy time, the availability to call out may be a little less than you are used to. Be patient through this time, because your employer is still working to ensure that all of his or her employees are taken care of. Mark Webster from Authority Hacker is one of those employers who are dedicated to making sure that things run smoothly no matter what situation arises.

“As the owner of a small remote business, we have a fairly relaxed policy in regards to sickness and general absence. As long as it’s reported in good time and with good reason, that’s fine by me! However, aside from obvious sickness, which can’t be helped, the level of flexibility to call out of work for various other reasons during work hours varies on how organized and well handled their daily tasks are. If the employee has a clear plan in place for what will happen when they go, who will handle their core tasks, and have ensured there is a backup in place, then they may call out of work for almost any reason.

“Whether that be a doctor’s visit or simply because they want to take a bit of time to rest. If the employee simply decides to call out, whatever that reason may be, and leave chaos in their wake, that’s when things become less acceptable, and we’ll scrutinize the reasoning closer. Ultimately, we leave it to the employee to follow best practices for ensuring their work gets done when they are absent, whatever that reason may be!”

-Mark Webster, Authority Hacker

Mental Health Day

Mental health days are a recent phenomenon, but that does not mean that it is any less important than other reasons to call out from work. Work-related stress is at an all-time high, and there should be no shame felt at feeling the need to take a day off from work for no other reason than to just relax. The beauty of a mental health day is that you can use that time to do whatever you feel will rejuvenate you the most. Check out what current chief executive marketing officer Simon Elkjaer has to say about the importance of mental health days:

“One legitimate reason for calling out from work that so many fail to consider is the need for mental health days/breaks. I strongly believe that making sure employees get and enjoy a healthy work culture is a responsibility every leader should uphold. This can be achieved with the help of great health and wellness policies and programs. Seeing that employees can take time off work for such breaks is one way of looking out for employees and giving them the support they need.”

-Simon Elkjær, Chief Marketing Officer, avXperten

Burnout Avoidance

Burnout is closely linked with mental health, and taking a day to avoid burnout can be grouped in with a mental health day if you already have one of those planned. Burnout is, to put it simply, feeling exhausted by your work, therefore feeling less motivated to do your work. This lowered level of motivation will result in a lower level of performance, which can lead to negative feelings about yourself and your abilities. This, in turn, leads to even more burnout and a vicious cycle that can be hard to escape from. Take Rhett Stubbendeck’s advice and take a day off of work to try to break free from this cycle.

“Being burned out and overworked is also a legitimate reason to skip a work day. Mental health is not valued in many organizations. We need to believe our employees when they say they need a break from work. This break shouldn’t be planned and employees should be able to skip a day in the middle of the week when they are low on energy. For example, in my company, my employees are given 10 days a year to call out of work due to work burnout.”

-Rhett Stubbendeck, CPCU | Chief Executive Officer, LeverageRX

Being Sick and Contagious

Feeling sick is probably the most common reason for employees calling out from work, especially if that person works at the office. However, you also have the same rights to call out from work sick if you work remotely. Just because you are working at home does not mean that you do not still need to rest and recover. Additionally, being contagious can still be a point of concern for remote workers, especially if they are trying to avoid getting loved ones sick as well. Again, most employers will be understanding, just like this chief research officer from HIGH5:

“Many people falsely believe they don’t have the same status as in-office employees just because they work from home and it’s easier for them to manage their outside-of-work commitments with their job. But that’s far away from the truth. While they cannot call out from the office because their car is broken and they cannot manage to come, they still have a plethora of valid reasons for asking for a day off. That said, doctor appointments, family and household emergencies caring for others, or just being sick are legitimate reasons to call out from work. As far as being contagious is concerned, remote workers can still request sick leave if they’re feeling unwell, or if they live with other family members who are not sick and need to be isolated. In that case, some logistical things need to be sorted, which might prevent remote employees from clocking in.”

-Emma Williams, Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Injury

Getting hurt or injured is never fun, and it is even less so when you have to worry about how your injury will affect your workplace. Luckily, most employers will have no problem with you calling out from work with an injury, especially if that injury is impeding your ability to perform all of your work, or if the injury is causing you a lot of pain. The president of Hexclad seems very understanding, and the opposite of judgemental when it comes to his employees’ injuries:

“A rare but valid reason employees have called out of work is due to injury. For example, we had an employee call out once for breaking his elbow, which left him unable to use his computer. Like sickness, injuries are usually out of our control. Employees who cannot complete their needed functions at work may as well stay home to rest and recuperate. We all have different circumstances, lifestyles, and biologies influencing our well-being. It wouldn’t make sense to punish our teams for the things they can’t control.”

-Jason Panzer, President of Hexclad

Migraine Headache

If you have ever had a migraine headache, then you know that they are literally no fun. Hopefully, if you have experienced one, you had the luxury of sleeping it off during a time when nothing was expected of you. However, imagine that you are at the office and attempting to get through the work day with a migraine. Some people may not understand and think that a migraine is just a headache, but migraines can be almost impossible to work through, especially if they are beginning to make you feel nauseous. Christy Purz is a chief marketing officer who believes that you will be doing everyone a favor by calling out from work if you find yourself with a migraine.

“Migraines can be debilitating to work through, even when you’re working from a home office. For some people, these episodes last for 4-6 hours, which is the majority of the work day. Side effects are blurred vision and sensitivity to light and sound, and it’s nearly impossible to get anything done. Save yourself the trouble and call out of work if it’s going to impact your performance for the rest of the day.”

-Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer of Paradigm Peptides

Prearranged Meeting

Though most meetings with clients and other professionals should be done during business hours, that is not always possible. There may be instances where you are required to leave your work for business-related matters. When this is the case, just give your boss a little advanced notice, and he or she will be happy to give you the time you need.

“It may be necessary to schedule a doctor’s visit for a time that conflicts with your work schedule. Meetings with potential clients and other professionals often need to be scheduled during working hours. Both are acceptable justifications for not showing up to work. As soon as you schedule a visit to the doctor or dentist, communicate with your superiors to let them know that you will be absent from work (or arriving late) on that particular day. Notify your boss if you need time off to meet with a client or take care of other business-related matters outside the office.”

-Joe Troyer, CEO & Growth Advisor, ReviewGrower

Unforeseen Problems

There are plenty of things that can go wrong in the morning when you are trying to get to work. Let’s say that you are ready to leave and hop in your car, only to find out that it will not start! This is when you would say that you have run into unforeseen problems. However, if you use this excuse too often, your boss will begin to question both your luck and your ability to adapt to unforeseen situations. Keep in mind what Jake Cowans says below covering this subject:

“Anything that prevents you from going to work that you had no way of anticipating is included in this category. Maybe something out of your control happened, like your flight is late, the bus not showing up, the babysitter not showing up, etc. Use caution in situations where you could have anticipated the problem and made alternate arrangements, such as when your car runs out of gas while driving on the highway or your alarm fails to go off. It’s to be expected that things like this will go wrong occasionally, but repeated occurrences will call into question your level of preparedness. You should be prepared to work from home or make other arrangements if you need to if this happens to you. Due to their rarity, ‘unexpected circumstances’ are not an excuse to be used more than a couple of times.”

-Jake Cowans, Founder & Chief Customer Officer (CCO) CompanyScouts

Connectivity Issues

In today’s time of internet and connectivity, it can be hard to get anything done without a reliable internet connection. Nothing can be more frustrating than an internet connection that is not cooperating, and that can be especially true in a business setting. If all the work you have left for the day requires a stable internet connection, there is no point in staying at work in this case. However, there is also the option of relocating somewhere else where there is stable internet, such as your home and completing your day’s work from there.

“If your web isn’t working as expected, you can’t be anticipated to appropriately take care of your responsibilities. Whether the web is sluggish or your administration is down completely, you can normally get off work briefly until you get your administration working again. It relies upon the sort of work you want to do. Assuming you want to go to online meetings, you can likely get off because of the slow web, yet not if you, for the most part, need to finish up Excel sheets disconnected.”


-David Reid, Sales Director, VEM

Transportation Problems

Not only can car issues end up costing you a lot of time, hassle, and money, but it can also make getting to work very difficult. If you find yourself suddenly with car issues, your boss will completely understand. Most employers will allow you to take some time off or work from home until you are able to get your transportation issues settled. There are also issues such as traffic jams to deal with that are sure to make you late once or twice. Even if you are taking a public transportation system, there is still the chance that this vehicle will experience issues while you are trying to get to work. According to this sales manager, these are all acceptable reasons to call out to work.

“Problems with cars or other modes of transportation are a typical source of frustration for city commuters. Lack of reliable transportation might cause you to be late for work, as can unforeseen events like a flat tire, dead battery, car trouble, or delayed train. When it just occurs once or twice, and you make up for it by being extra productive or finding creative ways to get to work, employers may be understanding. However, if you are frequently late or absent from work due to transportation issues, your employer may begin to suspect otherwise.”

-Michael Dadashi, CEO of Infinite Recovery

“If you cannot get to the job due to car or public transportation issues, it becomes a valid reason to call out of work. A good example is when your car dies, and there is no other way to make it to the office. Even with public transport, problems like traffic jams and service delays exist. Sometimes roads are blocked due to a significant accident or reconstruction.”

-Werner Jorgensen, Sales Manager, www.heatxperts.com

Jury Duty

Jury duty is not very fun, but it is one of the acceptable excuses that you can give for missing work. As a matter of fact, your employer cannot legally punish you in any way for attending to your jury duty. This makes it the most valid excuse for calling out to work. Layla Acharya, the owner of edwize, accepts that the legal process for choosing a jury can result in one of her employees serving on a jury. It is up to the employer to work around this inconvenience.

“Calling out of work becomes a necessity when a person finds he has been called for jury duty. This is one of the legitimate reasons and you cannot get fired for missing out on a day’s work if the law itself calls you. All employers accept that the legal process randomly picks any citizen of the country to act as a jury member for a particular case. If the person is selected by the lawyers as one of the juries then he will be exempted from the job for all those days he is in court. It is difficult to say whether this is more work than actually working in the office but it is definitely a legit reason.”

-Layla Acharya, Owner at edwize

Bad Weather

Bad weather can put a wrench in the best-laid plans, even when those plans are of the professional type. If your area is experiencing heavy snowfall or rainfall, you may be stuck at your house with flooded streets. Or you may not even be able to see the streets under all the snow. In today’s technological age, bad weather can also affect your ability to work from home, as Rodney Warner, the CEO of Connective states below.

“A legitimate reason to miss work is bad weather. You might not be able to get to work due to heavy rainfall or snow. Even if you’re working remotely, bad weather is still a good enough reason. Strong winds or storms may cause you to lose power or internet, hampering your ability to work. As such, all these are good reasons to call out of work.”

-Rodney Warner, CEO at Connective

Sick Children

In a time when most households include two working adults, a sick child can definitely make things a little more hectic when it comes to making it to work. Though a sick child is a legitimate excuse to call off from work, you can expect some follow-up questions when you return to work. This is usually because your boss and coworkers are just worried about your children. However, as Monte Deere points out below, you may want to use this last-minute excuse sparingly to avoid suspicion.

“A family emergency is an all-encompassing term you can use to describe a necessity to spend time away from the desk in support of a family member in need. You could share the reason with your boss if it’s as simple as taking care of a sick child. On the other hand, simply stating it’s a family emergency entitles you to the privacy you deserve, and your boss should respect that. If you end up needing to report several family emergencies over a short period of time, you may want to share some information with your boss so as not to provoke suspicion.”

-Monte Deere, CEO, Kizik.com

An Unexpected Family Crisis

Though some bosses would like to forget that you are an actual person with an actual life outside of work, few can deny that this is the case. There will be times that every employee will go through a family crisis, and they should be able to navigate this difficult time without added pressure about returning to work too soon. Such a crisis can include an accident, an illness, or even a death in the family. Whatever the case, Tia Campbell believes that it is best to solve that issue completely before returning to work.

“Unpredictable things can and do happen in life. And when life hands you a family crisis, you should surely use your sick days. If an emergency arises, such as a sick family member, it’s preferable to give your full attention to it until it’s resolved then to try to divide it between work and the situation.”

-Tia Campbell, Director of Marketing Practice Reasoning Tests

Problems With Your House

As with a sick child, it can be hard to schedule home improvement projects when all of the adults in the house are working. Someone has to be home to let the contractor into work and to stay there throughout the day. If you are planning a project ahead of time, make sure to give your boss a bit of advance notice, and they will work with you. However, home improvement issues are sometimes a surprise. Amar Vig states below how best to handle this surprise situation with your employer:

“Home issues are acceptable justifications for calling in sick to work. You can have a leaking bathroom faucet, a malfunctioning air conditioner, or a flooded basement as a result of heavy rain. Tell your supervisor that if you don’t fix the issue right away, it might get worse. If the situation persists, ask for a day off to solve it and inform your manager at the end of the day.”

-Amar Vig, Managing Director London-fs

Call out at Your Discretion

Sometimes, you may just simply not feel like working whatsoever. Luckily, there are plenty of employers who keep a liberal view on calling out from work and may not even require an excuse to do so. Todd Ramlin, the manager of Cable Compare, says below that if his employees do not feel that they would be able to successfully perform their job, they are more than welcome to call in. And don’t bother giving him an excuse!

“When it comes to calling out from work, our policy is pretty liberal. Any time that an employee feels like they’re not going to be able to do their job, they’re free to call off, no questions asked. The understanding is that they’re still going to be held responsible to meet their goals, no matter how much or how little they call off. We’re not in business to make sure people are working every day between certain hours, we’re in business to help people find the best cable service where they live. If you need days off, take them, just as long as you’re able to get the work done to meet your goals.”

-Todd Ramlin, Manager of Cable Compare

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

I'm a remote working from home veteran of more than 10 years. When it comes to working life from a home office, you can bet that I've been there and done that.I've spent years figuring out what works and what doesn't when it comes to working from home - from the types of desks and chairs that are the best and most comfortable, to the types of technology, and even getting the atmosphere right with the best decorations you need to be your best when it comes to working from home. I've experimented with just about everything you can think of when it comes to getting the most out of my home office, how to work from home without going crazy, and found solutions to the numerous challenges that those of us who work from home run into in this life.

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