Nearly 40% of South Africans are planning to “Pull a sickie” this winter

Number of work days lost

40% of South Africans to call in sick this coming winter even when not sick.

A just-released survey by one of SA’s leading colds and flu medicine providers revealed that National Sickie Day isn’t just a British phenomenon. Almost 40% of South Africans polled said they’re planning on “pulling a sickie” in June or July.

Pharma Dynamics surveyed more than 1 500 working South Africans across the country about how they’re gearing up for the colds and flu season, which also let slip the time of year they are most likely to ring in sick, when in truth they really just can’t face a day in the office.

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says a combination of miserable weather and the spate of colds and flu to be expected in winter most likely makes June and July the most popular months of the year to take a duvet day.

“Nearly a third of those polled admitted that they’ve pulled a sickie before – 45% of whom said they do so two to three times a year, while a few chancers (15% in fact) do so even more often. The 40% whose conscience probably gets the better of them, can only bring themselves to do so once annually.

“What makes matters even worse is that they don’t do so on their own. More than a whopping 51% rope in their partners and/or children to take a duvet day with them – 20% either didn’t have a partner or a child, which implied that if they did, they’d probably get them to bunk with them too. The remaining 29% preferred to do so solo,” notes Jennings.

The top excuses for calling in sick range from:

  • Coming down with a cold or flu, stomach bug or a migraine (78%)
  • Personal reasons (27%)
  • Home emergencies, such as a burst geyser, alarm problems etc. (19%)
  • Stress and/or burn-out was tied with having to look after a sick relative or partner (15%)
  • Transport difficulties – bus, train, taxi running late or car trouble (8%)
  • Overslept (7%)
  • Making an appointment weeks ago that you forgot to inform the office about and can’t cancel at the last minute (5%)
  • Hangover (4%)
  • Broken out in a rash (1%)

Most of these excuses sound pretty genuine and sometimes they are, but what’s an employer to do if they spot a trend?

Jennings says employers are perfectly within their right to challenge the authenticity of an excuse by requesting a doctor’s note or ask for evidence if they start to notice a pattern of absenteeism, which should keep the habit in check.

Gone are the days when sick employees had to phone the boss or office manager directly to offer an explanation. These days the most popular way to call in sick by far is SMSing or sending a WhatsApp (62%). Less than a third (30%) still does so telephonically (probably as a result of strict company policy) and 7% inform work of their absenteeism via email.

Other findings showed that more than 46% of South Africans are taking precautions in the form of a daily immune-booster or vitamin-enriched tablet to keep colds and flu at bay this season.

Jennings recommends taking a supplement that contains vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc, which in combination has been proven to strengthen the immune system.

“Vitamin C concentrations in the body tend to decline as a result of stress and/or infection and since it isn’t produced by the body, it needs constant replenishing via food sources. However, in our rushed day and age, it may not be practical for most people to consume the required servings of fruit and vegetables needed on a consistent basis, whereas taking a once-daily supplement is safe, effective and easy to do. Both zinc and Echinacea increases the number of white blood cells, which fight infections and reduce the chances of catching a cold. Therefore, all three nutrients play a vital role in combatting colds and flu,” she explains.

As for this year’s colds and flu season, SA should brace itself for possibly more severe outbreaks should warmer than usual temperatures persist this winter.

Jennings points out that it was once thought that global warming could bring on fewer deaths caused by respiratory infections during the colder months of the year, but research by Arizona State University found a significant association between warm winters and severe colds and flu cases.

“A typical cold or flu can last up to a week, but if you’ve contracted a more severe strain you could be down for two weeks or longer, even in individuals considered to be otherwise healthy. The best way to thwart colds and flu symptoms is to get enough sleep, eating a balanced and healthy diet consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein, drinking enough water and boosting your immunity with a supplement recommended by either your GP or pharmacist,” concludes Jennings.

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