Calling in sick when perhaps we could have made it into the office is something most of us have at least thought about. Sometimes the lure of day doing something fun, simply lounging round the house or genuinely needing a break to recharge and deal with the stresses of life is just far too appealing. If this sounds familiar then you are not alone. In fact, so many people take a day off work at this time of year, the first Monday of February has long been dubbed ‘National Sickie Day’ – the day when British workers are apparently most likely to call in sick.
Reports in previous years have covered this from various angles. One year, analysis focused on the reasons for not going to work on this specific Monday, with cold weather, a long wait until the next holiday and credit card bills from Christmas (surely a reason to actually go to work) all being cited.
In other years, the cost of this behaviour has been examined. Back in 2011, it was reported by a business advisory firm that around 375,000 people were expected to take the first Monday in February off work. This was at an estimated cost to the economy of £32m in lost work, paying salaries and overtime payments to staff that had actually shown up.
But while ‘pulling a sickie’ might not seem like a big deal for some, it is the tip of the iceberg for the employers. Long-term absence in the workplace always starts with that first day off – whether that is through legitimate illness or another reason.
This is where a group protection provider can demonstrate real value. Much of their work could be known as ‘pre-hab’ – either preventing people needing time off in the first place or minimising the amount of time they need away from work. This can be achieved through phone based support via an employee assistance programme (EAP) – service that benefits both the employers and employees, or through full rehab services for those who are already suffering with an illness.
Just the presence of these kinds of facilities can help with the overall wellbeing of employees. When you work for a company that has a safety net in place should you need it – that in itself can add to an intangible feel good factor that could make the difference between them choosing to come into work rather than stay in bed on a Monday morning.
There is further work that also needs to be done to increase employee awareness of the benefits that they have in place. According to the research* we commissioned last year, one in seven employees are still unaware of what financial products are on offer to them. It becomes apparent that an increase in employee and employer communication is required, as maximising the communication around benefit packages surely helps employers increase their engagement with staff and potentially increases levels of motivation and retention.
However, there will always be those who occasionally decide that day off work is needed. While researching this topic I also found another survey that looked at the tactics people used so as not to arouse suspicion when taking a day off work. The one that made me smile was that half of people admitted to using a ‘fake’ sick voice to call their boss – perhaps I’ll listen out in future to see if I can spot it!
* Friends Life (part of the Aviva Group) commissioned research with YouGov.
Steve Bridger is managing director of group protection at Aviva