According to Peggy Post and Peter Post, co-authors of The Etiquette Advantage in Business, the following suggestions will help you to share your concern with a colleague who is ill or who has a seriously ill family member:
Actions speak louder than words: show sympathy by helping the person on the job. Take over certain aspects of their daily load and keep them informed on important business happenings.
If your colleague is ill enough that he or she will be out of the office for an extended period of time, send a get well card. This can be done by you alone or you can team up with other folks at work.
If you have a close relationship with an individual who is laid-up for several days, weeks or months, consider a simple gift such as flowers or a potted plant. Team up with co-workers and take turns making or ordering meals (check with the individual or a family member first).
Gifts such as flowers and food are nice to receive as are crossword puzzles, books and CDs. Temporary gifts help make "sick days" fly by.
If your co-worker insists on staying on-the-job in spite of a terrible cold (sneezing and coughing and wielding tissues!) or other short-term illness, it is fine to let that individual know that you are concerned about his or her health and the health of the rest of the office. You can help alleviate your sick co-worker?s concerns about spending a day or two away from the office by offering to help with his or her work load: offer to check their voice mail, follow up with a client or complete a project.
About the Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.