The Bliss Point: why your office is empty in summer

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A sunny day can tempt staff to take extra time off, according to new research. How can you stop the trend?

We’ve all gotten up one morning and thought, “It’s so beautiful out, I’d rather go to the beach than the office”.  Now it seems some employees are following through on the thought.

"People wake up, they see there’s this great weather and they have a pent-up demand to do some recreational activities,” said Mikal Skuterud, who co-authored a paper on summertime absenteeism.

Skuterud called it the “bliss point”, and is specific about what prompts it. The perfect summer day is 27.2°C, including humidex, has clear skies and a light wind of 14.7kmh.

More than 900,000 Canadians miss work every week, costing the Canadian economy 100 million days of work a year, and it’s on the increase. Stress is often blamed, but it seems the weather could have more pull than previously acknowledged.

What’s more, the workers most likely to pull a sickie on a sunny day were those who can least afford it with non-unionized workers and new employees the most likely to be motivated by the weather.

 “They’re taking a real risk, because they can be fired – easily fired,” Skuterud said. Unionized workers are more likely to call in sick regardless of the weather conditions, while it has to be worth it for non-unionized workers.

How can you reduce it? Skuterud suggested companies could pay employees more on nicer days, scaling pay to reduce temptation, but admits it’s unlikely to catch on.

One alternative is to offer flexible or summer hours. By allowing employees to start early and leave early, you could discourage them from taking full days off. Summer hours, such as allowing employees to leave early on Friday if they make up the time on other days, can also be effective.

 

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