Flu Season Brings Out Workplace Hooky Players

October 8, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) -CareerBuilder's annual absenteeism survey finds 32% of workers polled won't wait until they get the flu to have a legitimate sick day, but will make excuses to call in sick.

Nearly a third of employers surveyed said they particularly aren’t surprised by the continuing trend of workplace “hooky” this year driven by the stepped-up stress and burnout caused by the recession.

A CareerBuilder news release said the majority of employers typically don’t question the reason for an absence, 29% reported they have checked up on an employee who called in sick, and 15% said they have fired a worker for missing work without a legitimate excuse.

Of the 29% of employers who checked on an employee, 70% required the employee to show them a doctor’s note. Fifty-two percent called the employee at home, 18% had another worker call the employee, and 17% drove by the employee’s house or apartment.

“Longer hours and heavier workloads are common in the current economic climate and employers are becoming more flexible with their time-off policies,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Sixty-three percent of companies we surveyed said they let their team members use sick days for mental health days. If you need time to recharge, your best bet is to be honest with your manager.”

The poll was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder.com among 3,163 hiring managers and human resource professionals (employed full-time; not self-employed; government and non-government; with at least significant involvement in hiring decisions); and among 4,721 U.S. workers (employed full-time; not self-employed; government and non-government); ages 18 and over.

When asked to share the most unusual excuses employees gave for missing work, employers offered the following real-life examples:

  • I got sunburned at a nude beach and can't wear clothes.
  • I woke up in Canada.
  • I got caught selling an alligator.
  • My buddies locked me in the trunk of an abandoned car after a weekend of drinking.
  • My mom said I was not allowed to go to work today.
  • A bee flew in my mouth.
  • I'm just not into it today.
  • I accidentally hit a nun with my motorcycle.
  • A random person threw poison ivy in my face and now I have a rash.
  • I'm convinced my spouse is having an affair and I'm staying home to catch them.
  • I was injured chasing a seagull.
  • I have a headache from eating hot peppers.

Source: CareerBuilder

Asked why they play hooky from work: more than one-in-ten workers (12%) admitted to calling in sick because of something work-related, such as to miss a meeting, give themselves some more time to work on a project or avoid the wrath of a boss, colleague, or client.

Others missed work to:

  • go to a doctor's appointment (31%);
  • relax (28%);
  • catch up on sleep (16%);
  • run personal errands (13%);
  • catch up on housework (10%); or
  • spend time with family and friends (10%).

CareerBuilder found an additional 32% just didn't feel like going to work that day.