Duvet days: a radical way to end poor staff morale?

David Israel
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tell people to get a life and stop whingeing? (Source: Getty)

Occasionally, we wake up with that feeling that we simply can’t be bothered – put it down to the weather, if you like, but it happens.

The question is, should that be something that an employer should be sympathetic to? Or do they just tell people to get a life and stop whingeing? Welcome to the concept of the “duvet day.”

A what day?

A duvet day is a sort of Get Out of Jail Free Card that an increasing number of employers are allowing their staff to use when they don’t fancy coming to work, for whatever reason. You, an employee, calls in and says: “okay, I didn’t book a day off, but I won’t be in work today” without having to fabricate a far-fetched story. Generally there are no conditions attached to when duvet days can be used; perhaps it’s when you are hungover, or maybe when the very notion of your face being pressed up against fellow commuters on a sardine tin Tube makes you shudder.

So why have duvet days?

As well as the rather more obvious plus points for the employee, there are also benefits that employers might like to consider. You will see fewer people “pulling a sickie,” as they instead have the opportunity to call in one of their duvet days instead. But the benefits are greater than that – giving control back to employees offers many rewards: it reduces stress levels and, ironically, improves productivity.

What is the problem then?

One obvious downside is that an employee may take a duvet day on a particularly tricky work day. But is that really so different to them phoning in sick because of an awful case of the sniffles? There are no hard and fast rules regarding duvet days. There can be one, two or more duvet days given. They can be part of or in addition to normal holiday. If you are concerned about half of the office being away the day after the Eurovision Song Contest due to all-night celebrations, then there’s no problem in excluding certain days from the duvet day allowance. Frame it as a benefit that employees will appreciate, and tell their friends about.

Flexibility is key

There are plenty of benefits to agile working. Give me a three day a week part-time worker and I’ll have someone who provides me with the equivalent of four days worth of work. Similarly, show me a 30-year-old who is banned from using their mobile phone or accessing social media sites at work, and it doesn’t take a Sherlock to tell you that you have someone who will swiftly be on the hunt for another job. Social and work life are mixed these days; embrace this mix and you will get far more loyal employees, rather than clockwatchers who are out of the door at 5.01pm.

Let’s have a bit of honesty

The reality is that a problem employee is always a problem employee, regardless of whether they are given duvet days or not. However, a good employee becomes an even better employee when they are allowed some flexibility. If a business has the gumption to hand over some control to their employees, then that is going to be more than amply rewarded with loyal staff who want to work all the harder for the business.

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