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 4th February 2019, 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 a couple of likely causes:
- This day follows the first payday weekend since Christmas when many people may have headed out to celebrate the end of January (and are therefore feeling like they need a day at home to recover);
- 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.
These factors combined have been linked to the estimated 350,000 absences from work on the first Monday of February last year. 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 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 over the past 12 months because of 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 7th February and is all about bringing together the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health. Whether that’s tea, biscuits and close friends or a room 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?