Only Half of Surveyed Employees Seize Their Right to Fake Sick

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

A woman sits up in bed, smiling with a laptop computer

This is a weird time to call in sick. Now more than ever, when everyone is saying “now more than ever” more than ever, we’re all especially empathetic about our friends’, acquaintances’, and colleagues’ health. A few folks have mentioned to me that they weren’t feeling well over the last few months, always with the quick caveat, “but it isn’t COVID.” When I caught what seemed like a 24-cold about halfway into quarantine, I was both puzzled by where those germs could have come from since I hadn’t been exposed to the elements in quite some time, and, like everyone else, extra cognizant of keeping my droplets to myself. And thankfully, it wasn’t COVID. 

But it’s no surprise that, in a survey of 2,000 (not a lot!) American “workers” (nebulous!), job search site Zippia found that one-in-two have called in sick when they weren’t (seems low!). Some other dubious assertions from a transparently unearned coverage-seeking email that reeled me in, in spite of a career-long aversion to this very ploy: “11% have used sick days to interview for a new job” (it’s more), and “13% of people are nursing a hangover” (it’s waaay more).

Zippia’s survey also found that Monday is the most popular fake sick day, and one-in-three people have called out after a holiday, which are both so painfully obvious you might earn more respect from your manager by calling in bored, or admitting you’re sick of their weasel face -- anything other than yet another ambiguous sick day that straddles the line of not bad enough that you need a doctor’s note and just bad enough that you can’t even pantomime productivity while you screw around on Reddit all day. 

Not everyone has paid sick days, but everyone should. And I am of the opinion that if you have them, you should take them, no excuse other than “I am taking a sick day” necessary. Still, some people have a fever to tell that just won’t break. Buried among Zippia’s 11 reasons people reportedly call in sick, for example, you’ll see “attacked by bed bugs.” A time and money-consuming nightmare if true. Genius if not. 

Here are a few more alternatives for the chronic explainers among us. Although I’ve blessedly never had to use any of these, most are inspired by personal experience. No theatrical congestion necessary. 

  • Bird flew into apartment
  • Fell in a mud puddle
  • Library book love spell gone wrong
  • Bad reaction to butter left on counter instead of refrigerated 
  • Had to call the Couch Doctors

If you have more than five sick days you either work at one of those start-up type places where you get “unlimited” time off that everyone’s afraid to take, or you’re some kind of highly paid executive. In either case you should be able to tap into your high market value creativity for the rest. Get well soon. 

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Amber Sutherland-Namako is an editor at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @AsaSutherland.