by Justin Standfield
Apparently, UK statistics tell us that the first Monday in February is the day when people are most likely to pull a sickie, i.e. missing work and saying it’s because they’re sick when in fact they’re really not ill at all. It’s for this reason that today, Monday 1st February 2021, is known as National Sickie Day.
So, what is it about the first Monday in February that’s earned it this title? All of the research on this tends to agree on the likely cause: after the New Year, many people have paused to take stock of their lives and have perhaps re-evaluated their careers, which leads them to take the day off to attend job interviews. As we are in a national lockdown here in the UK, this has intensified the need to make career changes for many people – as well as causing greater levels of worry and stress.
According to research conducted by OC Tanner, an employee recognition company, during the first lockdown in 2020, UK workers took 68% more days off than normal in order to avoid work. Over half (53%) of UK workers dreaded going to work last year. In addition, almost half (48%) stated that they had nothing else to give to their job.
There was an average 350,000 absences from work on the first Monday of February in a ‘normal’ year (i.e. non-pandemic year) in the UK. In any given week during the year, Monday is the day with the highest levels of sick leave – and employees are twice as likely to be absent on a Monday or Friday than any other weekday (source: ONS). According to research carried out by The Telegraph, we’ll typically blame colds or the flu when contacting our managers to let them know we’ll be off sick. A reason that most of us are very unlikely to cite – perhaps even when it’s genuine – is mental health. Figures from the Office for National Statistics say that only 8% of sick days are recorded as being due to mental health problems. However, separate research by Mynurva, an online video counselling service, found that 43% of UK employees have taken time off work because of poor mental health but have hidden the reason from their employers.
For whatever reason, people are still uncomfortable to be open about their mental health, which compounds a difficult issue that’s already something that many individuals feel that they should be ashamed of or ought to hide. I’ve known people attend our mindfulness workshops in organisations and open up to the group about the impact of stress, low mood or anxiety before they’ve even told close family members and partners. I believe that this is something that every single one of us can play a part in changing…simply by talking (and listening) more about mental health. Having conversations about mental health helps break down stereotypes, improves relationships, aids recovery and takes the stigma out of something that affects us all. There are lots of different ways to have a conversation about mental health and you don’t have to be an expert to talk.
This year’s Time to Talk Day falls on Thursday 4th February and is all about bringing together the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health. Whether that’s virtual tea and biscuits with friends on Zoom, or a webinar session full of people challenging mental health stigma, I’d like to encourage you and your colleagues to get talking. There are some great resources and promotional materials available to download on the Time To Change website (Time to Change is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness).
It all starts with a conversation: who will you talk to this week?