I need to communicate the fact that a co-worker is no longer engaged on a task, normally communicated as below:

[Customer], [Coworker] had to leave the office early today, so I'm taking over for him.

However, [Coworker] was never even in the office because he was working from home. Is there a word (or phrase) for the idea "leave work early" that doesn't use the idea of location? Everything I've come up with seems clunky or incomplete. "Stop work" has some pretty negative connotations in my industry, so I need something else.

  • I don't see why you still can't say that, it'd be understood what you meant and would still be correct if your coworker has an office in his home. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 18:31
  • 2
    "[Coworker] had to change from his dress sweatpants into his casual ones early today." Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 18:34
  • The terminology used will vary both according to the type of work / company / profession involved; and according to the culture of (1) that type of work/company, and (2) the country involved. What is acceptable in, say, an Indian culture may not be acceptable in, say, a British culture, which again may be different from a US culture. This is not an English Language question - it's a cultural question. E.g. I've no idea what "dress sweatpants" are, as mentioned by @MikeHarris
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:35
  • 1
    As the customer will only be interested to the extent that the situation affects them, as a customer; why do you need to say anything different if the effect is the same?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 21:05

5 Answers 5


I would use the phrase "clock out." It clearly states that the coworker is not available for work-related tasks for the rest of the day. It makes no assumption as to the whereabouts of the coworker's workplace, be it from home office or the workplace office.

"Customer, Coworker had to clock out early today, so I'm taking over for him."

  • 1
    Or the related "off the clock", as in "Mary had to go off the clock early..". Works better when used like "Mary's currently off the clock". Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 23:24

I might say 'I'm going to knock off (work) early so I can make it to my niece's recital'.

You might also say finish up early if stopping is really taboo. Finish has the idea of completing something instead of quitting something.

I just saw you addressed it to a customer, and this might be too informal for that purpose. The customer doesn't really need to know why you're taking over, just that you are, so maybe just say

Customer, I will be taking over for Coworker this afternoon, so please contact me if there's anything you need.

  • Knock off would be my first choice too, but it's definitely "informal". Collins offers a few synonyms: stop work, get out, conclude, shut down, terminate, call it a day (informal), finish work, clock off, clock out, but there's nothing "formal" that works quite so well - particularly in the context of someone working from home. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 18:38

As someone who has intermittently worked remotely/from home, this is often referred to as either of the following:

sign off/out (TFD)

  1. Lit. [for a broadcaster] to announce the end of programming for the day; [for an amateur radio operator] to announce the end of a transmission. Wally signed off and turned the transmitter off. Channel 43 failed to sign off at the scheduled time last night.
  2. Fig. to quit doing what one has been doing and leave, go to bed, quit trying to do something, etc.

For this usage, it's somewhat of an amalgam of the two definitions above - you've generally been online during the work day and are literally signing off/out of whatever communication programs you use (instant messenger, email, VPN, etc) and thereby ending your communication for the day.

log off/out (TFD)

to record one's exit from a computer system. (This action may be recorded, or logged, automatically in the computer's memory.) I closed my files and logged off. What time did you log out?

  • I realized later that the question specifies that the answer not convey the idea of location, and therefore this answer does not meet that requirement, but the title does not make that clear, and seems to emphasize the opposite.
    – vynsane
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 18:32

You say, "I need to communicate the fact that a co-worker is no longer engaged on a task, ..."  Some of the other answers suggest that the person will not be returning (to the task) today.  If you don't want to communicate that message, consider

[coworker] was called away ...


Abandon. Disengage. Stop working on. Became preoccupied. Is indisposed. Was called away. Has been otherwise engaged/occupied. Take your pick; I've got more.

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