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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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It’s National Sickie Day. Let’s analyse this dangerous abstraction…


I’ve been indundated with ‘news’ around National Sickie Day today – the day of the year when absences due to sickness are highest.

Many factors explain the high absence rate, including job interviews for those spurred by the new year into jumping ship, an increase in flu and colds due to the cold weather and general malaise as the effects of dark winter mornings and evenings take their toll.

The data may suggest more people are absent on this day than any other, but to say that today is the day people are most likely to ‘pull a sickie’ is crude and dangerous.

I refered to dark winter mornings above – in all the press releases I’ve seen, this has been proposed as a ‘bad’ reason for being off sick. Same for ‘just not feeling like getting out of bed.’

And yet, problems from dark winter mornings are a symptom of SAD, whereas ‘just not feeling like getting out of bed’ can be a sign of depression.

To hammer home the point, back in 2011 we covered a survey in which 64% of people didn’t consider anxiety was a good reason for absence.

It’s now 2018…

When will we stop homogenising absence?

National Sickie Day homogenises absence.

It splits the factors deemed suitable and unsuitable for absence across an entire country, and yet we learn time and time again that wellbeing is a totally individual concept.

Mind, the mental health charity, constantly reinforce that everyone has mental health, and everyone’s mental health is affected by different variables in different ways.

The danger of having ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons for absence

This is what happens when we trivialise individual wellbeing.

From Twitter:

And if you really want to see the trivialisation of wellbeing, click on the guy’s profile above, find the tweet I’ve embedded and see what someone has responded.

It ain’t pretty.

But there’s a silver lining…

Any occasion that puts the spotlight on a particular issue and positions society and the workplace for a discussion can have a beneficial effect.

National Sickie Day is a perfect opportunity for organisations to tackle the stigma of individual reasons for absence – that could be launching a campaign around flexible working as a way to help people individualise work, or delivering training to line managers and staff around the importance of trust for individualising the workplace.

The crux of the issue

Everyone accepts that we have different tastes in the positive experiences in life – music, film, food, drink, partners.

Yet we assume uniformity in the negative experiences of life. In how we’re affected by grief. Or how illness affects us.

That needs to change.


Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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