Since the start of the pandemic, Nyala Khan, head of human resources at a health startup, has been on a mission to encourage employees to take sick days. But they aren’t always listening.
Since the company’s employees are currently working from home, “a lot of people will say, ‘I’m not feeling well, but will work on a few things throughout the day,’ ” says Ms. Khan, head of talent at New York’s Eden Health. Last year, when the company began tracking personal time off, roughly 52%, or 1,362 hours, went unused, she adds.
The company is reminding people to take staycations or vacations this year for personal well-being, with Ms. Khan personally doing presentations of inspiring places to visit, she says.
At many companies like Ms. Khan’s, the pandemic and widespread remote work are changing the nature of sick days. Because people can already work at their own pace, many people aren’t taking sick days at all—they are just plowing ahead with their tasks on a schedule that suits them. Even when people do take sick days, they are increasingly inclined to work anyway.
Companies, meanwhile, are struggling to figure out what to do about this new reality. Some are offering more sick time, for a wider range of reasons—including mental health—but there is no consensus about how to get employees to take it. Or how to get them to really relax when they do.