Let’s face it - even the most motivated, hardworking and principled among us have those days when we’d rather stay in bed than have that dreaded conference call with an irate investor. When we’d rather slump on the settee watching daytime television than face another eight hours of dealing with angry customers.
Oh yes, no matter what industry you work in and how high flying (or not) your job is, we all know that feeling!
And so the duvet day was born: a day when employees can call in to their place of work and say they’re not coming in today. Why? Just because. Because they don’t feel like working today. Because they’re exercising their right to take a duvet day!
But as an employer or manager doesn’t that, well, kind of irk you? Especially if you’re not the one responsible for introducing the concept of duvet days into your company in the first place!
Or maybe you see it as one of the perks of working for your particular company? And of course, what goes around comes around and as an employee yourself, you’re quite within your rights to take your own unscheduled day off.
Should you implement duvet days? Your questions answered.
Maybe your company has embraced duvet days and uses them as part of your employee retention practices. Maybe there’s a chance that hell will freeze over before your organisation introduces them. Or maybe you, your HR department and management team are weighing up the pros and cons.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on there’s no doubt that the very mention of duvet days can elicit some very strong opinions!
So let’s take a closer look at the much-loved / much-maligned duvet day and some questions you might have if you’re considering implementing them.
“So, my employees can really just ring in and say they don’t feel like working today?”
In a word, yes. The whole thing with duvet days is that they’re a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of deal. Under normal circumstances a day off will have been booked in advance, or a sick day or emergency will come with an explanation. You don’t need to give a reason for a duvet day. It just is.
“Are duvet days like mental health days?”
They’re similar, but mental health days are usually used to allow an employee to take time out when they’re suffering from a recurring issue such as anxiety. On the other hand, duvet days are something that are often used in job descriptions and adverts to promote a forward-thinking company culture (and to bolster employee retention.) For example: Perks include free snacks, office ping pong, and three duvet days per annum.
“Why should I offer duvet days?”
As well as being able to dangle it as a carrot in front of prospective employees, the concept of duvet days humanises your organisation. As we said, we could all use a day hiding under the bed covers now and again, and this is why duvet days exist. They are meant to be a compassionate solution to ‘pulling a sickie’ and indeed, help differentiate between genuine sick days and “Ugh, I don’t want to go to work” days!
“Isn’t it giving my employees the wrong impression? That I’m fine with laziness?”
Not if duvet days are handled properly. As mentioned, we all have those ‘meh’ days. And it’s not because we’re intrinsically lazy people. Sometimes work can just get on top of us and it’s fine to be able to take a step back, avoid burnout, take a day to compress, and then come back stronger after a short period of down time.
“Can duvet days help my employee retention rates?”
Just as duvet days can help attract candidates, as part of your retention practices they can also go some way to helping you retain your existing employees. By offering them, you’re saying that you trust your team: you trust them not to abuse the system and your company’s generosity. You trust them to use their duvet days wisely. And you trust them to know what’s best for them when it comes to managing burnout. And trust and respect go a long way to increasing staff loyalty.
“Okay - but how can I stop duvet days from getting out of control?”
Ah, yes. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
There are a number of factors to take into account if you’re considering offering duvet days. For example:
- You might want to specify when employees can take a duvet day. This might be on a seasonal basis - for example, no retail store in its right mind is going to allow a policy that lets staff take ad hoc days off in the run up to Christmas. Or if your business is more project / client based, you might need to put an impromptu ban on duvet days while the team is trying to hit a deadline.
- If your organisation is fairly small you need to consider the impact of someone taking a duvet day if they’re the only person who has access to certain areas of your business, or who knows how to do something specific. What are you going to do if your server needs rebooting and your sole IT guy is at home with his phone on silent catching up on Stranger Things? Or if you urgently need a signature on a contract from the only person who is authorised to do so, and they’re AWOL?
- That leads us to the question of should an employee be available for emergency calls if they’re taking a duvet day? It seems counterproductive having to stay in contact with the office when that’s the very thing they’re trying to avoid - but is it essential for the business? How do you tackle that?
- And what would happen if five employees on a team of ten all call in on Monday morning, all wanting to take the day off? You will either need to have some kind of backup plan, or better still a first come, first served policy.
Duvet days: the conclusion
Only you know whether adding duvet days to your absence policy will work for you, although we hope the pointers above have helped you decide which side you fall. What it will probably come down to is the size of your company: do you have enough people to take up the slack if things unexpectedly become crazy busy over the course of a day when someone’s played their duvet day card?
There’s little doubt that allowing duvet days helps to forge a culture of trust and positivity within your workplace, and contribute to employee retention but if you are thinking of trialing or implementing them, you would be wise to put in place some clearly defined rules beforehand.