In today’s tight job market, talent is difficult to find. Add to this an environment where employees “quiet quit” and others suffer from turnover contagion, and you have a potentially disruptive staffing situation on your hands. One solution, however, could help with all of these issues: duvet days. This is an innovative employee benefit you may not have heard of, but offering it to your team can make it easier to attract and keep employees.
Duvet days are days that employees can abstain from work on short notice – usually the same day – without needing to give an excuse or use PTO. For example, sometimes people wake up on a random Wednesday not really feeling like working and call in sick even though they aren’t ill. Duvet days are meant to eliminate this lie and help staffers avoid using sick time while still getting the day off they need.
Duvet days can be used for any reason: as a mental health day, personal day or just for a little break without the need to awkwardly explain why you want the time to your supervisor. Employees simply say they are taking a duvet day, and they are granted the time with no questions asked.
There are many benefits to providing duvet days, for both employees and employers.
Since it is an unexpected and uncommon benefit, providing duvet days can help you stand out to job seekers when recruiting new hires. A perk like duvet days shows you care about employee well-being and take pride in offering out-of-the-box benefits to maintain employee satisfaction. This appeal can make the difference between winning over a highly skilled job candidate for your team and seeing that person go to work for a competitor.
Offering duvet days is a good way to prevent employee burnout, a condition that often leads people to leave their jobs. This benefit indicates that you understand that sometimes employees just need an impromptu day off and that you are committed to proactively accommodating that need. Employees recognize and appreciate this sort of empathy and are more likely to be loyal to the company when you respect their time.
The duvet day benefit has no hard cost associated with it. While you’ll be losing some productivity in the short term, in many instances, an employee in need of a day off would’ve called in sick and been absent from work anyway. In that sense, a duvet day isn’t costing your business any more than other types of leave would. Plus, in your benefits package, you could reduce the number of paid sick days you allow to accommodate for the addition of duvet days.
Since employees don’t have to lie to take an unscheduled day off, like falsely saying they’re sick or giving some other excuse, having duvet days encourages honesty in the workplace while respecting people’s privacy. If the reason they want a last-minute day off is personal or embarrassing, not having to explain this to a manager makes the process less uncomfortable and painful for the employee. Offering this benefit also shows employees that you trust them to do what’s right for them and that you want to meet their needs as much as possible. That, in turn, can assist employer-manager relations.
Most people periodically feel a need to stay home from work for a variety of reasons. Maybe they need to get their driver’s license renewed or take their grandmother to the doctor, or don’t want to juggle work responsibilities when caring for a child home sick from school. Building in schedule flexibility via duvet days allows employees to take time for their own personal needs when they arise. Simply put, sometimes one’s personal life needs to dominate the day. Duvet days provide that option.
Whether or not employees take duvet days, just knowing they have the option can help them with mental health because the benefit demonstrates that the company cares about them as human beings. If team members do take their duvet days, doing so can relieve any stress they’re feeling due to incomplete or neglected personal tasks, give them a respite from work-related stress, and remove the discomfort associated with lying or making up an excuse to take time off.
If you have a lot of entry-level jobs or roles that are typically filled by millennials or Gen Z employees, then you need to have company policies that appeal to these groups’ expectations and needs. Those include empathetic leadership, work-life balance opportunities and flexible schedules, and all three of those boxes are checked when you offer duvet days as an employee benefit. These demographics will value working for an employer that grants same-day time off with no strings attached or hurdles to jump through.
Ideally, every employee who is at work should be willing and able to devote their full effort to the job. By giving employees the ability to abstain when they would be distracted, stressed or otherwise unproductive, you increase the likelihood that they will be working productively when they are on the clock. In addition, the flexibility, mental health benefits and work-life balance afforded through duvet days should increase employee happiness and satisfaction, both of which boost productivity in the long run.
Companies with strict deadlines or experiencing staffing shortages should probably not offer duvet days, as you’ll run the risk of disrupting time-sensitive workflows.
As with any employee benefit, your exact policy on duvet days should be well thought out, codified in company policy documents, and communicated to current and prospective employees. Here are some best practices to get started.
Think about how you would like your company to implement this new employee benefit. Consider the following:
Once you have decided all of the details surrounding your duvet days benefit, communicate this information in your employee benefit documentation, recruitment ads and postings, as well as in direct-to-employee communication. Be sure to explain what a duvet day is and how it works since it is a relatively unknown benefit.
If only some of your employees will be eligible to enjoy this new benefit, you can choose to send the information on it to these specific employees or to do a general communication to everyone through an employee newsletter, bulletin or email. Keep in mind that if duvet days are available only to employees of a certain level, say senior managers and executives, you might opt for one-to-one communication so that you don’t create dissatisfaction among those who are ineligible. On the other hand, if the benefit kicks in at a certain milestone with the company, like five years of employment, communicating it to everyone can act as an incentive for employees to stay with the organization.
Include information on duvet days in your company’s human resources policy documents rather than in employee contracts so you can make adjustments later if needed.
As you roll out duvet days, it will be critical to train managers and supervisors on the new benefit, who is eligible for it, and how to handle requests for such time off. For example, leaders should know to check whether the employee has any available duvet days and verify that the day requested is not in any blackout period.
If the worker has duvet days available and at a suitable time, the manager should accept the request without asking questions about why the employee is taking the day off or saying anything negative. On the contrary, they should show support for the team member taking advantage of one of the organization’s benefits.
After a full year of offering duvet days, take a look at the effects on your organization.
If a moderate number of employees utilized their duvet days and you have seen improvement in morale, productivity, recruiting and retention, those results indicate that the benefit is an asset to your business and should be continued. If no one took duvet days, then perhaps you need to improve your employee communication on the subject.
If everyone took the maximum number of duvet days, that might indicate a problem with working conditions that lead to burnout and changes should be made to address employee concerns. If morale, productivity, recruiting and retention still haven’t improved after making adjustments, then the benefit may be doing more harm than good and should be phased out. [Read next: How to Take Away Perks Without Employees Hating You]