- Aruni Deraniyagala
Duvet Days: The New Workplace Perk
We’ve all had those days where you wake up and all you want to do is turn your alarm off and snuggle back under the covers. We generally end up calling in sick and taking the day off from work. Some companies have implemented duvet days in order to solve this issue. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a duvet day as a day off work, not because you are ill but because you need some time to rest and prevent burnout. It basically allows employees to take a mental health day.
Duvet days were first introduced by a British company called August One Communications in 1997. The idea was that employees would be able to take a day off without being required to give any sort of excuse as to why they were doing so. It was hoped this would reduce the number of sick days being taken and encourage honesty between the workers and the firm. The idea was soon taken up by a British PR company called Text 100, which was the first company to gain press coverage for doing so. They allowed workers to take a day off that didn’t have to be pre-planned.
As mental health has become a more widely discussed problem, it has become evident that it is a serious issue, particularly in the workplace. Studies show that around 1 in 6.8 people within the workplace experience mental health issues. In fact, about 12.7% of all sick days reported in the UK have been due to mental health conditions. This results in an increase in absenteeism within the workforce.
Absenteeism occurs when employees habitually and frequently fail to show up to work. This has a negative impact on the workplace. When fewer people show up to work, less work gets done. This results in a drop in overall productivity levels. If employers are forced to hire temporary workers to fill in for those missing work, there may also be an increase in labour costs. If employers are unable to hire temporary staff, either the understaffing will result in poor customer service, or it will lower morale amongst colleagues as other employees will have to undertake more than their fair share of the workload.
Duvet days help solve these problems by making employees feel like firms care about their well being and that they are being respected and treated well. It also fosters trust between workers and the firm since workers no longer feel the need to lie in order to take a day off. This causes a drop in the number of sick days taken. Managing director at Origym, Luke Hughes, has stated that, while they have implemented duvet days from the very beginning, most staff don’t use their allowance. He believes this is due to the fact that staff feel more valued as human beings simply knowing that these policies are already in place. Additionally, giving workers the option to take a day off to focus on their mental wellbeing helps reduce the stigma surrounding conversations about mental health.
It has also been proven that staff who take the day off to focus on their mental wellbeing are less prone to work-induced stress and feeling burnt out. In fact, 36% of adults have reported that duvet days help with workplace stress and anxiety. Allowing workers a day to relax and recharge ensures that they return to work feeling rested and with an increased motivation to work. The game developer iDGi has a strict duvet day policy. They say that as long as the work gets done, workers are allowed as many duvet days as they need. As a result, staff feel more motivated and are happy to have flexible work hours. This causes an increase in productivity within the firm. Type A Media have implemented a four-day work week, so that every Friday is a duvet day. Since doing so they have seen a massive spike in productivity. It also enables workers to have a better work-life balance. Providing could duvet days throughout the year could also help reduce long term absenteeism. This is because if workers are encouraged to periodically take a day off to focus on their mental health throughout the year, then they are less like to feel burnt out and need to take a longer leave of absence to recover.
Of course, there are those that argue that providing workers with the ability to take unplanned leave is simply encouraging laziness. If people are allowed to simply take a day off just because they don’t feel like working, they might become prone to idleness. Others are concerned that it may lead to a lack of responsibility and say that their firm doesn’t have the resources to pick up the work of an employee who fails to come to work. However, it is hard to ignore the clear benefits duvet days have, particularly towards those who suffer from mental illness.