Feeling Good, Faking Sick

Are you noticing an uptick in employees calling in sick? You’re not alone, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey; 40% of workers have called in sick even though they felt just fine, a sizeable increase over the prior years (35% in 2016, 38% in 2015). Employees gave these top three reasons:

  • 23% didn’t feel like going to work
  • 20% needed to relax
  • 15% needed more sleep

What’s driving this increase?

This survey does not reveal the root causes of this increase. Various other surveys and reports on workforce trends suggest possible factors: stress and burn-out are increasing as employees are expected to do more with less; generational changes and evolving work ethics; disengaged employees who don’t understand the value of their contributions to the organization. Another factor may be workplace bullying- according to a separate CareerBuilder survey.

What are an employer’s options to manage this trend?

A combination of efforts might be best, depending on culture and organizational needs:

  • Notice patterns- are employees calling in sick on Mondays and Fridays? Have frank, 1:1 discussions with employees who have such patterns of unplanned absences.
  • Remind employees of the importance of regular attendance, the appropriate use of PTO/ sick time and related benefits and policies.
  • Be aware of the signs of bullying, make it clear that is not tolerated and encourage employees to report such behavior without retaliation.
  • In team meetings, openly discuss the impacts of unplanned absences. Peer pressure can go a long way toward minimizing fake sick calls!
  • Revise the attendance policy to set limits on the occurrences of unplanned absences.
  • Survey employees to identify engagement levels and measure overall job satisfaction. For assistance with this, contact Employers Council to develop an effective survey to support the organization’s goals.

Unplanned absences can be especially disruptive for those businesses who rely on employees providing customer service assistance (retail, hospitality) and shift work (hospitals, public safety, manufacturing).  If unplanned absences do not pose a problem in a workplace, then a more trusting approach might be appropriate; allow employees to self-monitor and hold them accountable to deadlines. There is no “one size fits all” method to manage this trend.

Whichever approach is taken, base it on sound business decisions and not personal preferences for individuals. That can create morale issues and even possible claims of discrimination. For assistance with policies, practices or surveys, contact Employers Council!