We all know that “duvet day” feeling. It’s when you just can’t seem to garner the motivation to get going and would prefer to shut off the alarm, turn over and go back to sleep.
When people feel like this, some will call in sick – even though they’re not – to be able to take the day off. However, to avoid this sort of absence, many companies have formalised duvet days into their terms of employment.
What is a duvet day?
A duvet day is a day that an organisation agrees employees can take off without advance notice. Duvet days are built into the company policy or holiday allowance and can be taken whenever the employee wants a day off, but isn’t sick and hasn't already requested annual leave. The employee contacts their employer to advise that they are taking a duvet day and there’s no requirement for them to give any sort of excuse for wanting the day off (if this is something that's already been agreed or is in the employee's contract.)
The duvet day apparently originated in 1997. British PR company August.One Communications introduced the duvet day to allow employees ad hoc time off that wasn’t pre-planned. It was then taken up by another PR company, Text 100, and they were the first to gain press coverage about duvet days.
Duvet days aren't universally popular. Some people say they increase idleness and a lack of responsibility for overindulgence the night before, setting a precedent which can all-too-easily become a workplace norm.
The benefits of having duvet days
The idea behind duvet days is that they can reduce the number of sick days taken, especially those where the employee isn’t really sick, but rather “pulling a sickie”.
They can be an attractive benefit to employees, so can be added to your company’s benefits package to entice employees to come and work for you. If your industry is particularly competitive, or you suffer from a shortage of certain skills, then this may be just the kind of incentive that will draw potential staff to come and work for you.
Some people say duvet days can actually enhance productivity. That’s because staff feel that they are being treated with respect. They're being allowed to decide if they don’t want to work that day rather than having to call in and pretend to be sick or somehow otherwise justify their need for leave.
Instead of calling in and having to make up an excuse for being off, the employee self-designating a duvet day allows them to be decent and honest. Equally, if an employee is simply not in the right frame of mind to come into work, it could be argued that they are better staying off anyway.
Are duvet days always a good idea?
One school of thought holds that the duvet day simply panders to people’s laziness. We all occasionally yearn to just stay in bed, but if we don’t have the luxury of duvet days, then we have to fight those urges and get up and go into work.
Of course, duvet days might not be right for your organisation. There could be other ways that you choose to look after your team's wellbeing and boost productivity, like early-finish Fridays, flexible working or employee reward programmes.
Incorporating duvet days within your business
If you think offering duvet days would be beneficial to your organisation, then you should provision for these in your company policy documents. You could also add them to employee contracts but it would then be harder to rescind if you decided they are not benefitting your employees or company. Implementing duvet days by way of policy provides a way of 'testing the water' which will allow you to monitor how often they are requested and the impact they have on your business.
If you do decide to offer duvet days, first decide on the number which will be provided. Many companies who do make them available, offer a limited number; maybe one or two per year. Make sure these are written up in policy documents or contracts as appropriate.
You may also need to specify times of the year or days of the week when duvet days cannot be taken. Perhaps there are times when the uncertainty of whether or not staff will be in could cause too much disruption to your business. Many companies will disallow duvet days after major sporting events, so that they are not suddenly understaffed.
In many cases though, staff will respect the needs of the business and will exercise common sense in taking duvet days simply because this kind of perk is one that bolsters morale.
Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler
An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter as of February 2023, Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With a passion for guiding readers to solutions for their HR woes, she enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: From employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.
Posted on 7 March, 2022
HR policies and processes