I stayed home.
The other day I called in sick to work. I’d started coming down with something the day before and in 24 hours I was laying low.
It’s funny how we look at time away from work. An astonishing 50% of us leave annual vacation time (holiday to my international friends) on the table each year, and a greater percent of us don’t use all our sick time, or just PTO.
We stay in the office.
Now rationally, this makes no sense. Our employers provide us with certain time away to ensure we get a mental break periodically (all work does indeed make Jack a dull boy) as well as to provide time to recover from illness and importantly – not spread the illness to others.
So why is it many of us feel compelled to come to work regardless?
My theory – based on 30 years of experience – is that it’s based in the culture of management expectations. We don’t really want you to be out.
It’s true there are some people (a small fraction to be sure) who manage to use all their time and then some. Having someone in a leave without pay status is a sure sign management isn’t doing their work – excessive absenteeism can be managed without violating rights or FMLA. But there are few of these cases.
The majority of the people working a 9-5 (as if) routine show up more than they need to. Because the dirty truth is we want them to.
Absent coming to work when you have a contagious illness, which you should just not do, your management may expect you to come to work a lot. Vacation be damned, PTO ignored. Let me be very clear right here: if you have this expectation as a manager – that people should not use all their time off – you are a bad manager. You’re a user.
And if you as an employee work in a system that frowns on holiday and PTO that is a sick system. You need to think about that.
It’s clear to me the Europeans have a much more enlightened view for the most part: take time off when you need to and be productive when you’re here.
So try some enlightenment and get your people out of the office more. Hell, they just might become more engaged.
I’m making chicken soup this morning so hopefully I can kick this thing soon. But in the meantime I’m wondering where we get the paradox of allowing days off, but, not really.
I need to go lay down.