What makes you sick?

Employee absenteeism is on the rise as sick time definitions widen.

Remember when you had a bad cold or cough but you went to work anyway? I bet nobody thought it was a big deal though many probably said: “You sound awful. You should go home.”

But things are different now. The article, “‘I Just Wasn’t in the Mood to Work.’ American Employees Reinvent the Sick Day,” in The Wall Street Journal discusses how employees are less likely to come to work if they have even the slightest sniffle.

The newspaper reports: “30% of white-collar workers with access to paid leave have taken sick time, up from 21% in 2019,” and “employees between ages 25 and 34 are taking sick days most often with their use rates jumping 45% from before the pandemic.”

And though the COVID-19 pandemic is partly to blame for the rise in absenteeism (video-based meetings and remote work options, for instance, make it easy for office workers to stay home if they feel slightly under the weather), it isn’t the only culprit. Generational differences play into it, as well.

The article notes: “Early-career employees aren’t taking cues from older co-workers in the same way now that five days [per] week at the office is no longer the norm.”

In addition, employees in general have less loyalty to employers than they used to, making it easier to call in sick. Add in the emphasis placed on mental health and the popular benefit of using sick time to care for an ill family member, and you can see how quickly absenteeism increases when folks emotionally are not feeling up to it or have other obligations.

“More employers are coming to view sick days as a benefit to help workers cope with the unexpected—whether that’s parental health issues, school closures or a more run-of-the-mill employee cold,” the article notes.

Unfortunately, in this tight labor market, you must accept the new reality and continue to build loyalty and camaraderie among your team members so they want to show up with a slight sniffle.

AMBIKA PUNIANI REID is editor of Professional Roofing and NRCA’s vice president of communications.


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