Unhappy cute brunette waking upCareer Builder, a US based online jobs site has just released its annual findings of the worst excuses given for skiving work across America. And there are some real winners (or perhaps losers might be a more fitting description) on the list. These “worst excuses” for skipping work include I can’t come in because “I accidentally got on a plane” and my personal favourite “I woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it.” I mean if that’s not a valid reason to call in sick, I don’t know what is.

The slightly silly poll does however highlight a more serious issue than the lack of fibbing skills present among some staff. The study revealed that the overwhelming majority of employees are going into work when they’re ill due to 2 key reasons; workload and pay.

All work and no play

53% of US employees are making the trek to work even when they’re unwell because they feel they won’t be able to catch up on their task list, while 38% decided to sneeze and sniff their way in as they couldn’t afford to miss a days’ worth of salary. It may be surprising, but in the US it is common practise for some employers not to give any paid sick leave as there is no law forcing the private sector to do so.

Now the second issue may not effect UK workers like it does for those in the US, as we have far kinder statutory sick leave laws, but the first reason adds to the increasingly topical subject of presenteeism. This is when staff turn up to work, staying on long hours when they are not well enough to do so, mainly due to concerns surrounding job security and the stability of the job market. We discussed presenteeism in a previous post which shed light on some of the effects stress in the workplace can have on employees.

Breaking the cycle

I think the fact that staff feel they cannot take a day to recover from illness is indicative of a truly worrying workplace culture we have built. Presenteeism means staff take far longer than necessary to recover from relatively harmless bouts of cold and flu, while putting the rest of the workforce at risk of catching it and continuing the cycle. In the end you lose a great deal more working hours and productivity than if Joe had just stayed at home.

I believe this trend where staff are martyred for having no work life balance, for being the first one in and the last one out and for turning up to work even when they look like a something out of The Walking Dead is dangerous and it needs to stop. It ruins morale, decreases output and makes the spread of an apocalyptic disease far too easy! Long working hours doesn’t necessarily mean more work achieved and it always comes at a diminishing rate or return and quality. The ramifications of this lack of work life balance and workplace stress regarding job security needs are far reaching and it’s time we addressed then and repositioned our stance.

Feeling too secure?

All that aside, if you are the worker who claimed you couldn’t come to work because you were about to have your gall bladder healed holistically, perhaps you have too much faith in your job security? The list of worst excuses did spark a little walk down memory lane for me. I had a think back to my student days when I worked as a manager in a takeaway pizza place. The best excuse I was personally privy to was “I can’t come into work tonight because I have athletes foot.” Classic.