ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

A comprehensive guide to making the most of your sick day

Don't feel guilty - embrace the lurgy!

A comprehensive guide to making the most of your sick day
09 November 2017

I hardly ever take sick days, because first and foremost: I am an extremely hard, metal-coated behemoth that is impervious to most human disease; but also because I have an extreme and soul-sucking affinity to the emotion of guilt. Therefore, I will only take a sick day when I am physically incapable of doing any work and/or my illness poses a direct threat to my colleagues and/or the staff toilets.

Only then is it OK for me to take a sick day.

Because: if you are ill, do not come into work and sit there, huffing like a broken pair of bellows, wiping the yellow sweat off your green top lip, transferring dangerously contagious globules of sputum onto the keyboard for the next hot-desker to suck into their skull. Instead, stay at home, quarantine your flat, resolutely do not destroy anyone else’s life, and most importantly: have fun.

Yes, I understand you are ill, and this is famously not fun, but if you’re going to pull a legal sickie, then you might as well embrace the veiled freedom, because you ain’t at work, bozo. You’re at home, and you are absolutely obliged not to do any work, even though it is a Tuesday. This is not an opportunity that comes along often - you need to seize this day, and against the protestations of your failing body, you will enjoy yourself.

So, if you intend on making the most of a day away from your desk, then I’d strongly suggest you apply the following essential headings to your itinerary:


Do not be fooled by the tranquil nature of this photo - this man is extremely ill and could bowel everywhere at any given second

Hopefully, because you are ill, you have woken up just before your alarm, writhing about like a sweaty, mud-leaking worm, and therefore consigned yourself to the fact that you will not be going into work today. As such, you can send an email or a text to your boss beforehand, and upon receiving a reply, can just go the fucking hell back to sleep. Amazing. Then, simply sleep until whatever time you choose. 

Stay in that cesspit until three o’clock if you want - you have zero obligation towards anybody or anything. Lie there, moaning, seeping, eyes pointing outwards in different directions, bum vibrating at a worrying frequency, safe in the knowledge that you’re your own boss, and you do what the heck you want.


It’s exactly this kind of riveting viewing that will distract you from the rapidly approaching onset of death

Once (and if) you finally emerge from your damp medical truss, there’s simply one thing that must be done: you must transfer to the empty living room, (unless you live with freelance calligraphers or someone equally disrespectful of normal working hours). Then, as you insert your delicate butt into the warm embrace of your sofa, a hug which will most likely last until your flatmates come home, it is absolutely necessary to turn on the television.

Now, the year is 2017, and as such, we have a ridiculous and undying stream of entertainment at our fingertips - you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, and it is extremely easy to do so. However, you are ill, so do not put something that is actually good on - do not do this, because your feeble, wavering and resolutely unwell mind will not be able to give a ‘proper thing’ the attention it deserves. Instead, you shall watch Bargain Hunt.

Or any other crock of wonderful shit that is on, live, in the day. This extends to such beautiful time-wasters like Come Dine with Me, Four in a Bed, Catfish, Jeremy Kyle, or anything with Paul Martin on, basically. You do not need to concentrate on these shows, but they will bring you joy, and for the fleeting moment when a cute old lady in an oversized, misshapen blue fleece shakes her hands in front of her face like an excited Wallace and Gromit character, simply because she has won £35 (split two ways, natch), you will forget that you are ill.

Of course, then the credits roll and the subatomic pressure returns to your cranium and reminds you: yes, you are five minutes from death.


A film as critically acclaimed as this will provide brief respite from the claws of the grim reaper as he pours thick death down your strangled gullet

After a while, Bargain Hunt might become a bit much - like, usually about four episodes back to back - then it’s probably about time you watched a film. A nice, simple, easy, will-not-hurt-my-ailing-brain film.

It is essential, however, that you do not pick a movie that will test you in any way - it must be extremely palatable and painless to digest, because remember: you are ill. So, do not watch anything sad, like The Green Mile, or anything traumatic, like We Need to Talk About Kevin, or anything that needs a modicum of independent thought, like, I don’t know, Total Recall or something. Instead, watch a shit rom-com, or a dumb action movie, or a slasher film - watch something made for idiots, which you absolutely are in your current guise - you are a horizontally prone moron, watching a film through squinted eyes, brain working at half its usual speed.

Happy Gilmore is what you should be watching, essentially. For that blissful hour and a half, there is the distinct possibility that you will stop retching, minimise coughing, and potentially only take one break to go whoopsers. Then of course, as the film reaches its conclusion, your chest tightens, the whites of your eyes return to the colour of a Nik Nak, and you admit it: you shall not be on this Earth for much longer, for your skeleton has shattered.


One slice of pizza, one chip, a slither of onion - it has made me feel worse oh no

The nature of your illness (head, lungs, throat, stomach, arse) will dictate your eating habits throughout the day. Sometimes, and this is very unfortunate, you will not be able to eat anything because you feel like if you do, the entire bottom half of your body will punch its way through your living room floor, and the top half will erupt into a geyser of purple and yellow sludge that will stain the heavens.

However, if you’ve simply got an excruciating headache (the type that sends you in and out of blindness), then that means that, holy hell, you can eat, oh boy you can eat. Order in some food - like, so much of it, plates and boxes and bags of it - and then eat a couple of bites and leave the rest. Those wonderful, gluttonous mouthfuls will help you forget that actually, you are a skinless human slug, noxious gases seeping from every pore, black satanic vines creeping up the walls whenever you touch them - you will soon cease to exist, the plague has consumed you.



It really gets rid of a headache for a bit and then it’s back to dying again!


Come hither, good Sir, enjoy my facilities, come and go as you please - you do not have much time left

Sometimes, you may feel, on the whole, pretty damn skippy, as luck would have it, but there is an important reason that you cannot go into the office. A very delicate, contentious issue that is best not discussed with work colleagues or your boss, but that will become very apparent to them over the course of the day. Private messages will batter about with increasing fervor as your tough day wears on:

“Again? Is he OK?”

“Oh my god he was in there for ages last time”

“Pooo-weeee, stinky-winky dirty man!”

But hey, you’re at home now, so you don’t have to deal with any of that, and your colleagues will remain of the opinion that you are a clean human person, with no downstairs troubles whatsoever. Enjoy your bathroom-based death waltz. Expel your entire being. Leave an empty husk of skin slumped over the bath, like a wretched Dali clock, primed for the rats.


You better get back indoors and eat those wispy potato starch snacks before the zombies get you! Only joking, you have already been infected and will soon perish

There’s something very horror film about leaving the house when you are ill. You see strange daytime people that you would never normally encounter, it is always cold, even in the summer, and you feel as though the entire population of your immediate area is staring at you.

However, at some point, you will need to buy a packet of the ill-person’s crisp - Quavers - and to do this you will need to leave your flat, because obviously you do not already have any in your kitchen.

A blast of fresh air can do wonders for a headache, but a cursory glance from your local shopkeeper has the potential to derail your recovery, because they definitely think you’re unemployed and/or entitled in some way, so best to put a hood up and grab those yellow snacks quick-smart. Then eat them back in your dingy flat, sweat dripping from the ceiling, zero fresh air and realise: heart will stop beating any minute, this is the illest I’ve ever been.


A lovely cosy middle-of-the-day nap, pillow on the cheek, feet pushed into the creases under the armrest, relentless throbbing of skull against skin of head, endless internal screams, never-ending screams, screams until the last breath

Sleeping in the middle of the day when you’re at work is frowned upon, unless you work for a wacky company like Facebook where a man probably injects you with general anaesthetic three times a day and throws you in a big ball pit to increase productivity. But when you’re at home, sick, so very sick, you can nap it with the best of them.

Simply become the cat-man, and sleep whenever you want. And while we’re here, wherever you want: lay your quivering body down in your living room, and sleep until your flatmate returns from holiday and discovers your decomposing body underneath the blanket on the sofa, mouth open like you’ve just watched the videotape from The Ring. Oh my absolute god, he was so ill, they’ll say.


Fashion is the exclusive pursuit of the office drone - you are a flat-bound revolutionary, and will wear whatever is comfy, and that is all. You will look like a lost property basket, and you will absolutely love it. Until your illness takes over and you cough out a slice of your own lung, that is

When you go to work, if you care even a jot about your appearance, you have to decide what to wear. Sometimes you are lucky and this comes about quite easily and without too much stress, but there are certain days where it has the potential to devolve into a screeching, flinging, hissy fit inside your bedroom, in which the drawers in your bed are forcefully ripped from their rollers and then smashed into the wall. Now your drawers do not work, well done me I mean you.

But when you’re off sick, you have nobody to impress and as such, you can coat your body in whatever the hell you choose. Keep a dressing gown on all day; wear two hoodies at once; don’t go within five metres of a pair of jeans; wear your shark slippers - just look like a goddamn fool all day and it’s absolutely nobody’s business but yours. And if you’re lucky, when you head out to get your Quavers, your local shop will be extremely close to your flat, so you won’t have to get changed. Own that shopping trip like the human clothes-chair that you are.


Ahhh, a nice early night. BUT WILL YOU EVER WAKE UP

When you’ve been at work, going to bed early is an absolute dunce’s charter - you have spent nearly the whole day in an office, so to go to bed early would be to cut your free time horrendously short. Therefore, on a normal working day, you must stay awake as long as possible in the evening, stretching out your leisure period to breaking point - this is the world’s most obvious statement.

However, when you have wearily watched 38 episodes of Bargain Hunt and listlessly eaten 1,000 packets of Quavers throughout the day, you have already achieved your aim, and can call it a day much earlier. You’ve completed a sick day, on hard, no cheats, and your reward is a nice cosy bed, at about seven or eight o’clock. I mean, you’re ill - iller than the universe has ever seen - so chances are you’re not going to get the best sleep on offer, but you’ve got to try, and retiring early maximises your chances. 

As you lie there, the notion of mortality at the very forefront of your pulsating head, and drift off to what feels like it could be your final sleep, at least you can rest your head on that mucus-stained pillow, safe in the knowledge that you absolutely sucker-punched that sick day a new one. RIP.

P.S. if you haven’t left me the surplus Quavers in your will I’m going to Silly String your funeral.

(Images: Rex/iStock)