Flu season is upon us and with that comes a significant increase in employee sick days. Sick days can be a gray area for most organizations. Often, employees feel guilty about taking sick days and fear falling too far behind [i] On the other hand, some employees use sick days to handle personal matters such running errands or even catching up on sleep. Interestingly, one survey found that 38% of people who called in to work sick were not actually sick and an additional survey found that when a colleague calls in sick 80% of their co-workers think they are lying.[ii] This can lead to sick employees coming into the office, sharing their sickness with others, and furthering the level of inefficiency by causing more absences. The truth of the matter is, sick days may not be the most efficient option in the modern workplace.
One of the factors that sets the modern workplace apart is its flexible work schedule. More employers are providing options to help allow their employees to seamlessly blend their work life with their personal life. With an increasing number of organizations allowing employees to work from home, many are wondering if the traditional sick day is still necessary.
Why are Employers Getting Rid of Sick Days?
A recent article by the New York Times quoted Kit Warchol from Skillcrush saying, “Even if you take a sick day, you’re still emailing in the morning, checking in later in the day.”[iii] If you are able to answer an email, it is likely that you would be able to work from the comfort of your bed, even if you were feeling a bit under the weather. If presented the option to work from home, would you still take a full sick day? The answer is likely no.
Allowing your employees the opportunity to work from home rather than taking the day off shows that you trust them to manage their own time and responsibilities. It also allows employees to be accountable for the work they are doing. Working from home removes the guilt of spreading illness to other colleagues and also prevents employees from falling behind.
Another interesting point made within the New York Times article is that we should re-define the way we refer to sick days. One organization determined that they will be called ‘Personal Emergency Days’. This means that family illness, doctors appointments, and other personal commitments fall under this same category. This can help avoid employees taking unnecessary sick days and instill a sense of trust between employee and employer.
It’s important to note, that this does not mean organizations should encourage employees to work through severe illness. When not feeling well it is important for employees to take care of themselves and get the needed rest. Sometimes just the ability to sleep in and take an afternoon nap gives the employee the time they need to tend to urgent work matters and get the rest they need. This is simply suggesting that we should allow employees flexibility when they are sick rather than forcing a day off. This can improve employee engagement, productivity, and overall efficiency.