Hey you! Are you feeling a bit fragile? Why don’t you take the day off work? After all, it seems that – collectively, at least – we’ve got a fair few sick days spare.
The Office for National Statistics is reporting that last year, we as a nation took the lowest amount of sick days off since records began almost 25 years ago. Roughly 137 million working days were lost due to illness or injury in 2016. Sounds like a lot, sure, but that comes to about 4.2 days per worker. That’s the lowest since 1993, when the average worker pulled just over a week’s worth (7.2 days) of sickies
Of all those lost sick days, 34 million of them (24.8%) had minor illnesses like coughs and colds as the root cause. Musculoskeletal problems, including back and neck pain was responsible for 22.8% of days lost to sickness.
Unstiffen that lip
Worryingly, mental health issues like stress, anxiety and depression accounted for 15.8 million (11.5%) of the sick days being used. And you’ve got to wonder whether this would be even higher were it not for traditional British stoicism and that famous ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality.
According to Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, the sickness rate – which has fallen consistently for the past decade – shows that “it is a myth that UK workers are always throwing sickies”.
She also made the very quotient point that “working people put in billions of pounds of unpaid overtime every year”.
Another interesting revelation from the report was the fact that the rate of taking sick leave was substantially lower inside London. Wales and Scotland took the most sick days geographically with 2.6% and 2.5% respectively, while Londoners took a share of just 1.4%.
This is unsurprising considering that in the UK capital, working life is all-consuming. We at Debut have spoken frequently about burnout and other forms of mental illness that can occur when your identity is tied to your job, and in London, this seems to be commonplace.
Remember: sick is not a synonym for work-shy
So, this is a send-out to all the workers of Britain. Don’t feel guilty about taking sick days any more. Take pride. We as a people have been too strong for too long.
The idea that taking time to recover from the rat race makes you weaker or less committed is completely passé at this point. And if you come into work while ill, like so many of us do, you risk being unproductive at best and at worst, making your other colleagues sick.
Next time you get the sniffles, really listen to your body. It’s trying to tell you that you’re running yourself into the ground. Rest up, drink plenty of fluids, scoff down some chicken noodle soup and treat yo’self. Work’s important, but your health comes first.