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Work From Home

How (And When) To Call in Sick — Even When You Work Remotely

It goes without saying that at some point in your career, you'll come down with a cold or virus that will require you to stay home from work, drink excessive amounts of tea, and make good use of that gravity blanket you impulse-bought off of Amazon.


The hard part is deciding if you actually should make the call to your boss to let them know you won't be in, what to say, and how to say it. You know you won't nearly be your best self, and will run the risk of getting your coworkers sick, but you also don't want to look like you're slacking or leave anyone in a lurch.

At the end of the day, it is important to prioritize yourself and your health, while making sure you're taking the necessary steps to leave your employer and your teammates in the best position possible.

This is true even if you're a remote employee. Just because you can't pass your germs onto your coworkers doesn't mean you should try and be a work-hero when what your body really needs is rest and recovery.

So, how do you decide whether you should call in sick?

You know your body better than anyone, and ultimately only you can decide if you can work or not. That said, there are some basic questions to ask yourself when you're on the fence about whether that headache really warrants a day at home.
  1. Are you contagious?
  2. Do you have a fever?
  3. Will time in bed help the problem?
  4. Are you in need of immediate medical attention?
  5. Will time on your feet/at work exacerbate the problem?
If you've answered yes to any of those questions, you should plan on spending the day at home. If you know you're contagious but feel good enough to work, request permission to work from home (more on that below). And if you already work from home, you're all set.
If you feel deep down like you're in too much pain and/or too tired to work, the best thing you can do for yourself and your company is to take a proper sick day. Get in bed with some soup and pain meds and rest up. (And make sure you see your doctor if you're not sure why you're sick!)
You're better off working when you can be more effective. In these more severe cases, whether you have the option to work from home or are a full-time remote employee, make sure you're clear with your boss that you're really too ill to work and won't be online (more on that below).

"Ok, I'm going to call in sick... how do I do it?"

Choose The Right Method of Communication and Do It ASAP

We can't predict when we'll get sick — after all, it's not entirely uncommon to go to bed feeling fine and wake up wondering if you got hit by a bus.

But even when illness comes on suddenly, try and decide as quickly as possible whether you can make it to work that day and let your boss/HR department know right away.

Make sure you follow whatever protocol your company has for calling in — and make sure you know said protocol. Nothing's worse than feeling like you've been hit by a boss and then panicking about who you need to tell that you won't be making it to work that day.

Larger companies will often have a hotline for you to call, whereas at smaller ones the expectation may be simply to text or Slack your boss.

If you don't already know, be sure to check whether the company requires/prefers to have documentation of your illness from your doctor upon your return. Yes, it's an absolute pain to drag yourself to the doctors when you've been puking all morning, but if you work at a company that wants to see formal documentation for everything, it may be in your best interest to suck it up and go.

Keep It Short And Be Clear On Your Availability

Once you've followed protocol, be sure to contact your boss explaining what's up and addressing your availability.

Your boss doesn't want to know all the details regarding your illness - they just want to know that you'll be out, why, and what your availability will be throughout the day. For both in office and remote employees, communicate when and if you'll be going to the doctors and that you'll be sparingly checking your email (if you can).

Again, be sure to get a doctors note if you can - even if it's not required of your company to submit one, it's always helpful to have the documentation should any questions arise later on. If you're extremely ill and will be completely off the grid (a.k.a sleeping all day), make sure you communicate that as well. This will help ensure that your team can be respectful of the time you need to recover and save you from any unnecessary requests/emails.

If you're contagious but otherwise capable of functioning and choosing to stay somewhat accessible through email or chat for questions or concerns, be sure to communicate that as well. Let your boss and team know what you'll be capable of doing from home, and what will have to wait (meetings, pitches, etc.).

Finally, if you're playing it "touch and go," be upfront with that. Maybe you've got a terrible headache that you think will pass in a few hours. Or you need to go to the doctor for a sprained ankle and will be able to work after that. Whatever the case, be sure to let everyone know up front that you won't be available until X time, at which point you will provide an update on your status and availability.

Be Clear On Important Information

In the event that you've got an important meeting or are approaching an important deadline, make sure all of those things are communicated to the right people (or at a minimum, let your boss know so they can communicate it on your behalf). Of course this is the last thing you want to do if you're really, really sick, but you'll feel better if you muster up the strength to delegate accordingly.

If you have any important presentations or meetings and there's simply no way you can present, talk to your boss ASAP to develop a contingency plan. Sure, it's not ideal, but that's what teamwork and problem solving are all about.

Follow Up

Once you're healthy and back into your normal work day schedule, the first thing you should do is check in with everyone you interact with regularly and see if they've got everything they need from you and if there are any details from your time away that you should know about. That way, your absence won't have any lasting effects on projects or tasks that need to be completed.

----

It's normal to feel guilty when calling in sick — especially if you work from home already — but just remember that it's not your fault you're feeling ill, and a good team will be ready to support you when you're not at your best. If you follow these tips, you'll show your company and your coworkers that you want the best for your team, even when you're sick.

Let them cover for you so you can focus on your #1 job for the day — recovery.


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The Best High-Paying Remote Jobs

5 full-time work-from-home roles that pay seriously well

We—we being the internet in general, as well as PowerToFly specifically—often talk about remote work as this glorious thing: you can find professional fulfillment, friendly co-workers, and career growth potential from the comfort of your own home. All while collecting a check!

But where should you look if you want that check to be as big as possible?

Start with this guide to the best high-paying remote jobs. These career choices (and the example companies hiring for them) don't skimp out on paying remote workers well, and you'll still get all the work-from-home flexibility you're looking for. I've linked to specific job posts for each category below, but also look through the 300+ remote jobs on PowerToFly's always-updated remote job board for more.

As you apply and interview, keep these work-from-home interview questions in mind. If you find yourself with a salary offer that's good, but not quite as good as it could be, reference these salary negotiation tips for remote workers to advocate for what you deserve. And when you get the job with a great salary, make sure your home office is set up for success. And then send me a note to tell me how you're doing!

1. Senior Software Engineer

Business woman using laptop

Who It's Good For: Anyone who's a pro in programming languages (Java, Javascript, C++, Python, and SQL, to start, among others) and knows how to drive the development of products. If you like complex engineering challenges, have experience working with different systems and products, and have the discipline to program without a PM physically hovering over you (Slack hovering's allowed, though), this is for you.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Sr. Principal Software Engineer at Dell, Senior Front End Software Engineer at Plectica, Senior Software Engineer at CloudBees

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Like most heads-down-and-create work, developing software and programming are best done with minimal distractions. You'll collaborate with your team for check-ins and bug fixes, but you'll be able to focus on your project work from a home office.

Average Annual Salary: $131,875

2. User Experience Researcher Manager

Young adult woman working with laptop at mobile app

Who It's Good For: Proven researchers who know how to understand the behaviors and motivations of customers through feedback and observation, who have experience synthesizing insights into a brand story, and who have managed teams.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Research Operations Program Manager at Zapier.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: As UX researcher Lindsey Redinger explains in her helpful Medium post, remote research allows companies to reach users all over the world, not just within driving distance to their headquarters, and can be cheaper for companies and easier for participants.

Average Annual Salary: $105,810

3. Senior Product Designer

Female graphic designer smiling at desk in office

Who It's Good For: Creatives with technical chops who like the challenges of evolving and improving the production of current products, leading designers, and collaborating with other parts of the business.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Product Designer at SeatGeek.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: While design teams definitely need to share lots of feedback, there's technology out there to make that easy. The Help Scout design team has shared their favorite tools and tricks to collaborate remotely, which includes recording daily videos of new designs to explain features and ideas in a way a photo file just can't express. (They're also hiring! Check out open Help Scout jobs here).

Average Annual Salary: $107,555

4. Senior Security Analyst

Developing Concentrated programmer reading computer codes Development Website design and coding technologies.

Who It's Good For: Thoughtful, vigilant thinkers who enjoy identifying and fixing gaps in a company's security posture, including through ethnical hacking (hacking a company's system before outsiders can, and addressing the weak points found) and incident response (containing the negative effects of a system breach or attack).

Sound Like You? Check Out: Data Protection Security Analyst at Deloitte.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Not all security analyst positions are remote-friendly; sometimes they require working with very sensitive data that can be compromised if taken off-site or accessed from a VPN. But with the right data processing policies—like using a privacy filter over your laptop, only using secured wifi, and encrypting your data, all suggested by WebARX security's all-remote team—remote work as a security analyst is definitely possible.

Average Annual Salary: $108,463

5. Technical Project Manager

A strong wifi connection makes for a strong relationship

Who It's Good For: Tech-friendly jack-of-all-trades with a sweet spot for spreadsheets and other organization tools.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Technical Project Manager at Avaaz.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Project management can sometimes be like herding cats, but you don't need to be in the same room as your feline team members in order to direct them around. With collaborative software (and a highly organized home office, like PM pro Patrice Embry recommends), you can PM the most complicated of projects from wherever you're located.

Average Annual Salary: $95,129

Other Industries

Other high-paying remote-friendly jobs include certain roles in healthcare (like nurse practitioners and psychologists, who can check in with patients via video conferencing and phone calls), app developers for both iOS and Android products, actuaries and tax accountants, and data scientists.

And remember that even jobs that don't seem remote-friendly at first, could possibly be done from home or on the road. If you find a well-paying, exciting job that doesn't offer remote work immediately, it might be worth negotiating a more flexible schedule with a 1-2 day work-from-home option. Both you and the company can see what remote work actually looks like in action, and if it goes well, you can make a pitch to transition to remote work full time.

Other resources you may want to check out in your quest for meaningful, well-paid remote work:

6 Programs You Should Download Right Now if You Work Remotely

Productivity Tips for Remote Workers

Home Office Design Tips for Remote Workers

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Build Your Network at the Next PowerToFly Event

Today we celebrate our partnership with Braintree! Check out this video to see highlights from our recent networking event.

If you missed the event, fear not! Stay connected by following Braintree on PowerToFly and email us at Hi@PowerToFly.com for future events near you.

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I have a friend whose discerning toddler refuses to eat her preschool lunch unless it's in a bento box. I get it; baby carrots are much more appealing when stacked in their little compartment than not. That made me think: when did adult lunchtime stop being fun? When did a soggy sandwich brought from home or a $12 bowl of greens, scarfed down in 10 minutes while scrolling through emails, come to define midday sustenance? Enter adult lunchables.

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