- A new O.C. Tanner poll found that one-third of respondents admitted calling in sick when they weren't ill to get out of work. And of those who faked an out-sick call, January was the most popular month for call-ins. Respondents said the top excuses for staying out are rest, relaxation or the need to spend time with their families. Survey results suggested, however, that an underlying cause for their playing hooky was their dissatisfaction with their organizations.
- The survey also found that most respondents don't call in sick often — 68% call in less than once a year and 12% call in once a year. More than one-third of respondents who have called in sick agreed that their work situation keeps them from being happy in other areas of their lives and 40% of those who called in sick said they don't trust their senior leaders. Slightly more from the same group agreed that their organization cares more about bottom lines and productivity than people.
- O.C. Tanner recommended that, as the new year begins, employers should think about using this time of the year to assess team satisfaction and be sensitive to employees' frustrations and the potential for burnout.
The O.C. Tanner poll may have found that employees' faking sick doesn't happen often, but that doesn't mean employers should ignore the phenomenon entirely. Employers can intervene by regularly gauging workers' satisfaction through internal polling. Hidden dissatisfaction among workers could turn into chronic absenteeism, which, in turn, can lower productivity and lead to burnout. When managers suspect their employees are burned out, they may want to adjust employees' workloads, encourage them to take their allotted vacation time or refer them to employee assistance programs.
It might be hard to determine when employees are being truthful when calling in sick, especially if it occurs infrequently. For example, illness might be weariness; 74% of respondents in an Accountemps poll come to work tired. Offering sufficient paid time off, flexible work schedules and remote-work options might allow employees to get the rest and relaxation they need to supply them with energy for work.
When employers allow dissatisfaction to fester, it can spread, creating a toxic work environment. In a recent poll, negative people were rated as the worst kind of coworker, one who often forces others to quit their jobs. Organizations should listen and respond to workers' complaints immediately and create a workspace in which employees feel heard and valued.