A duvet day is a day where your first thought upon waking is “oh no, not again.”
Maybe it’s winter, and the sun hasn’t even bothered to rise by the time your alarm clock screams at you. Outside it’s cold, dark, and drizzly. All you have to look forward to is a dreary commute, interminable meetings, a cold sandwich for lunch, and a few hours of clock-watching before a further dreary commute.
But your bed is so warm, so comfy, so cozy. The temptation is to wrap yourself up in a blanket burrito and stay in bed, where it’s safe, for as long as possible.
A duvet day is a day where you succumb to that temptation.
Are Duvet Days Bad for Business?
In many ways, yes, they are.
If an employee simply decides not to show up for work one day, you’ve got yourself a case of unauthorized absence on your hands. And like all types of absenteeism, unauthorized absences can be terrible for business.
But the real thing that should give cause for concern about duvet days is what they say about your workplace culture.
Obviously, no job is perfect, and nobody can be bright-eyed and enthusiastic about work 100% of the time. And nobody likes cold and wet mornings. If your employees absolutely dread coming to work, then something’s seriously wrong.
You want your team to be engaged and motivated, and to find real fulfillment in their work. It might be too much to ask that every member of your team actively looks forward to coming to work. But the last thing you want is for your workers to resent their jobs.
However, with that being said, it really does feel wonderful to stay in bed when you’re supposed to be somewhere else. It’s a rare opportunity to put your needs first. It’s a tremendous act of self-love, which can do wonders for your overall mental health and wellbeing.
This is why increasing numbers of businesses are actively encouraging their employees to take occasional duvet days. If managed correctly, a duvet day can be a powerful part of your employee wellbeing program.
The Business Case for Duvet Days
Why do people take duvet days? In a worst-case scenario, it’s because they hate their jobs. But a lot of the time, it’s simply because they’re tired, or stressed.
The sleep specialists at Time 4 Sleep recently investigated duvet days. In their survey of more than 1,000 UK adults, 61% admitted having taken a duvet day to recover from a hectic work schedule. The top three most common reasons given for taking duvet days were, in order, tiredness, anxiety, and stress.
CIPD figures show that stress is one of the biggest causes of unplanned absences in the workplace. You’ll never be able to entirely eliminate stress from the workplace. Some jobs are inherently high-pressure, and many businesses operate to extremely tight deadlines.
But as we’ve already explored, it’s possible to manage stress in the workplace, to ensure that things are never allowed to spiral out of control.
If your employees are reaching a breaking point, they might be tempted to treat themselves to a duvet day. This would be great for their mental health, so in the long run, it could be good for your business. But a duvet day remains a case of unplanned absence. And any instances of unplanned absence can seriously affect your productivity.
So why not meet your employees halfway? If duvet days are a great way to manage stress, why not encourage your employees to treat themselves to a well-earned lie-in now and then?
If you offer your employees duvet days, you’ll send a strong message that you trust them and that you genuinely value their wellbeing.
Duvet days can also instill a feeling of integrity. If an employee simply cannot face work on a given day but doesn’t necessarily feel “sick”, they can simply call in and request a duvet day. That way, they get to take the time-off they need without having to offer you a dishonest “excuse”.
The Businesses Embracing the Redemptive Powers of the Duvet
Describing it as a “millennial work perk”, Metro’s Alamara Abgarian spoke to six employers about the rise of duvet days.
At Type A Media, employees effectively work four-day weeks. Every Friday is a duvet day. “It has led to a massive spike in productivity and a reduction in sick days,” said managing director Ross Tavendale. “Also, it really helps when hiring, as lots of people want a better work-life balance.”
Meanwhile, at iDGi, the management has implemented a strict policy. Founder Emma Owen said: “As long as everyone gets the work done, they are permitted to spend as much time wrapped in a duvet as they wish… Everyone is really motivated and happy to work flexible hours because they have the ability to work from the comfort of their beds.”
Finally, Tracy Nolan, director of PressPlugs, describes duvet days as “hugely liberating.”
“I look back on my previous roles and wondered why I had sat at my desk five days a week, from 9 am till 5 pm, just because someone else said so… We value expertise above fixed working hours and presenteeism, so duvet days are just part of that culture.”
Want to Introduce Duvet Days to Your Business?
Just like unlimited annual leave, duvet days won’t work for every business. Some sectors simply require employees to be in a specific place for a specific amount of time. It’s very telling that pretty much every business owner interviewed in the Metro article we mentioned above operates in the digital sector. When all the work is done on computers, it can be comparatively easy to weave duvet days into your employee wellbeing plan.
So before you consider experimenting with duvet days, consider how they’d affect your business. If you absolutely need all hands on deck at every moment, then you’ll have to consider an alternative means of managing stress in your workplace. Read our guide here.
But if you know that your business would be able to operate with a more flexible working pattern, here are a few tips for incorporating duvet days into your workplace culture:
1. Consider Making a Trade-Off
If your employees are going to be spending one day of their working week in bed, will they need to make up the time elsewhere? In the above Metro article, Type A Media’s Ross Tavendale mentioned how his team had shifted from five seven-hour days a week to four nine-hour days a week. Staff work longer days overall, but as it’s a four-day week, nobody’s overworked, and everybody gets to enjoy a better work/life balance.
2. Technology is On Your Side
PressPlugs’ Tracy Nolan hinted that she’s only able to offer her team duvet days because the business operated on a cloud-based system. If you want your team to enjoy the benefits of bed, think about the sort of technology that’s going to help you get there.
3. Put Everything in Writing
Ultimately, a duvet day is just another form of absence, so it’s important to let employees know exactly where they stand. Talk about your policy in both your employee contracts and your employee handbooks. Give a clear definition of what counts as a duvet day (and what doesn’t!) and outline what’s expected of any employees who wish to take one.
4. Make Sure That No Employee’s Duvet Day Causes Any Problems
Managers only approve annual leave requests when they can be sure that the employee’s absence won’t cause any shortfalls or problems for any other member of the team. The same should be true of duvet days.
With our absence management software, both employees and managers will be able to see who’s going to be in on any given day of the week. So they’ll be able to see, at a glance, whether their duvet day would cause any issues – and they’d be able to make their request and get their approval in a matter of moments.
Elevate employee wellbeing today for a happier more productive workforce
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.