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I've a surgery coming up next week, and that will result in some projects being halted, as I will be on a sick leave for an unspecified amount of time (3 days to 2 weeks).

When I tell clients about this, should I just say "I will be on a sick leave for at least a few days, up to a maximum of 2 weeks", without further specifying the reason? I'm comfortable with sharing the reason as it isn't anything embarrassing, but I'm wondering if I come up looking unprofessional?

I intend to keep my work and private life separated, and I'm not sure if this creates a bridge between them.

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    "I will be unavailable between x and y due to medical reasons" – Snowlockk Feb 15 '17 at 11:00
  • Contrary to Snowlockk's answer, I would just keep it to a simple "I will be out of the office between x and y", maybe adding alternative contacts, similar to what you would do for any other absence. There's no reason to go into details except to possibly get sympathy. – Trebor Feb 15 '17 at 16:26
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Why do you need to say you will be on Sick Leave? Simply state you will be absent for up to 2 weeks and you'll catch up on your return. They won't overly care about the reason.

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  • Sick leave gives them no option but to accept it, while normal leave can be argued with. – Snowlockk Feb 15 '17 at 11:02
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    @snowlockk How so? If I say i'm absent, and I am absent, then how can it be argued? – Andrew Berry Feb 15 '17 at 11:17
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    While nobody argues that the OP will be absent, if it affects the work in progress people will be usually less upset if it is for a medical reason than if it is just for the sake of taking some unscheduled holidays; specially if there is little warning time. Of course, the OP should not feel forced to explain the details of the medical reason. – SJuan76 Feb 15 '17 at 13:11
  • @AndrewBerry: Simple: the client may call you "unprofessional" for scheduling a "vacation" while there's urgent work to be done. – MSalters Feb 15 '17 at 14:56
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    @AndrewBerry: That's exactly why I put it in quotes. The client may very well be making assumptions. By preempting incorrect assumptions, you can avoid an unjustified negative image. – MSalters Feb 15 '17 at 15:04
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If you are more than a one-person shop, it's generally good to tell them who will be covering your duties (or at least accepting complaints) in your absence.

If you don't have anyone else, and you aren't in a profession where you can designate a locum or recommend someone else in the field to handle crises... Well, life happens, schedules slip; you give them advance notice when possible and do the best you can.

You may want to consider giving them your cell phone number for crisis use only, with the understanding that you may not be able to answer and won't have all your resources with you so the help you can offer may be limited. Or bring a work laptop with you and stay in touch by e-mail, with the same warning that responses may be delayed and limited.

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