Wishing a sick co-worker well

A woman visiting another woman in the hospital.

When co-workers are out for an extended period, you can feel the weight their absence. But worst of all, you probably feel helpless. While you can't cure whatever ails them, you can cheer them up – and a little joy can go a long way. With that in mind, here are some tips and etiquette rules for sending your professional relations get-well cards:

Learn about their illness
While health is legally a confidential topic in offices, word of your co-worker's illness might be getting around. Or, he or she could have even given your boss permission to tell others what's going on. If not, your boss won't tell you the details but may hint at the severity of the issue.

In any case, you want some cursory knowledge so you can write appropriate business greeting cards. If all else fails, a generic note wishing the person positive thoughts is always a safe bet. For instance, you can say "I'm sorry to hear you're not well. I wish you a speedy recovery." This note expresses sympathy and offers well-wishes.

Offer help
If you know this particular co-worker well and are aware that he or she will be out of commission for a while, you can offer assistance, whether that means babysitting his or her kids, cleaning his or her home or bringing over healthy, home-cooked meals. Such gestures show you care and fill a practical need your friend can't do alone.

In addition to offering your help in the get-well card, contact your co-worker's spouse or significant other, as he or she is likely the one trying to take care of the home and kids right now. 

Of course, don't feel any need to offer help if you don't know this person very well – a simple card can still make an impact.

Write a personal note
Personalize your card to fit the relationship you have with your co-worker. For instance, if you constantly joke around with each other, your letter can be silly and lighthearted. Or, if you take walks together during lunch, a note that says "I can't wait to grab food with you again" may be more appropriate.

No matter what this person means to you, find one thing your get-well card can focus on. This special touch may mean volumes to the recipient. 

Send a care package
In addition to delivering get-well cards, you and your office mates can assemble a care package. Include snacks he or she likes, card games, crosswords and reading materials. Being sick can get boring if you're laying in a bed all day, so the activities will be well-appreciated. Just make sure any food you send is safe for your co-worker to eat. Additionally, if he or she is in the hospital, call ahead to make sure it allows care packages. Some hospitals ask loved ones not to send flowers, for instance. While your gift is likely OK, double checking beforehand ensures it isn't turned away.

Send around an email at work letting people know when you'll be visiting your co-worker. That way, they can assemble their cards and gifts for you to deliver.