Poor workplace culture is the root cause of over a quarter of absences, says research looking into the validity of ‘National Sickie Day’ (7 February 2022).

 O.C. Tanner’s 2022 Global Culture Report  reveals that 28 per cent of UK workers have taken more days off lately to avoid work with over a quarter (26 per cent) admitting that they dread going into work.

Robert Ordever, MD of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe says “The term ‘National Sickie Day’ trivialises mental health and wellbeing issues, and suggests that those who take time off when they aren’t feeling up to work are ‘pulling a fast one’”

He said employers should look at the root of the problem to cure it.

“Instead, the focus must be placed on why some employees are struggling to attend work, whether in-person or virtually. Could a sick workplace culture be behind increased absences, with people feeling disconnected from colleagues, isolated from leaders and not valued by the organisation?”

Breakdown of social connections

O.C. Tanner’s Report, which involved more than 38,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners and executives from 21 countries around the world, including over 2,500 from the U.K, draws attention to the growing social fragmentation of workplaces. 

It has found that the pandemic has caused social connections to break down, and this has led to more mental health challenges with lonely and disengaged workers looking for ways to avoid work.

In fact, nearly half of UK workers (45 percent) admit that there have been times when they have ‘felt like running away from their job’. The futility many feel is also highlighted with 42 percent saying that, even if they wanted to change something at their organisation, it wouldn’t matter.

In addition, almost a third of workers (30 percent) confess that they have nothing more to give in their job, with a similar number (28 per cent), admitting that things they used to tolerate at work have started to bother them.

“When increasing numbers of employees are missing work for reasons relating to their mental wellbeing, the organisational culture must be scrutinised”, says Ordever. “Leaders need to look at all areas of culture, from organisational purpose and the state of leadership through to how valued, supported and appreciated employees feel every single day.”

Nurture connections

The Global Culture Report recommends nurturing connections between employees and their leaders, teams and the organisation. When employees have strong social connections at work and feel connected to organisational purpose, they’re 86 per cent less likely to experience burnout, and the company is 12 times’ more likely to thrive.

 Giving regular and personalised staff recognition is also considered key to a healthy workplace. In fact, When recognition is common throughout the culture, the likelihood of employees feeling more connected to the organisation, their leaders and colleagues increases by 131 per cent.

Ordever adds, “The spotlight must be firmly placed on what organisations are or aren’t doing to give their employees a sense of purpose, belonging and value, rather than suggesting employees are to blame when they try to find ways to avoid work.”





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Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.